Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Farewell Las Vegas III

"Gambling makes the mind burn. Can this be turned into the fire of purification and understanding?"
- Miron Stabinsky with Jeremy Silman
Zen and the Art of Casino Gambling (1995)

The following piece is a continuation of Farewell Las Vegas II.

What circumstances create a dedicated gambler, and why do some gamblers fall off the precipice into the abyss of degenerate, addicted gambling? I don't pretend to have all the answers to those questions. I was an avid gambler myself, and did suffer significant losses (not in casinos though). However, I never crossed over that magical line into the realm of severely, addicted gambling where one is financially, and spiritually bankrupt. Such individuals can resort to immoral, and even illegal acts in order to obtain cash for gambling... Full Story

I've had at least a passing acquaintance with such people, and you can't help but feel that in addition to their own shortcomings society has let them down as well. Science is beginning to shed some light on factors that contribute to gambling problems. Studies would indicate that there is a relationship to the serotonin deficiency disorders such as depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (repetitive betting could certainly be seen as a compulsion). Co-morbid addiction problems are more frequent in hard core gamblers as well. Of course, there are many who would argue, and with some rationale that it is a problem of the spirit, that the addicted gambler becomes bereft of spiritual influence, or discipline. I would subscribe to all of these theories to some degree. If you know someone who may be in the throes of gambling addiction, or if you are heading down that lonely road yourself please know that there are many community resources in most North American municipalities that can provide help. On the internet there are standardized tests or questionnaires available to answer, that can indicate if someone has a significant gambling problem. There are numerous chapters of Gamblers Anonymous in almost every major city, and newer Gambling Decisions programs are in some jurisdictions as well. It is important to intervene for many reasons, but attempted suicide is a significant risk in advanced gambling addiction.

With that in mind, I return to the story. It was one of those fateful, life events that my coming of age (Eighteen) coincided with the legalization of Casino gaming in Alberta. I don't think that one can under estimate the influence of legalized gaming when it comes to influencing youthful minds, and society at large to participate in gambling. This in turn has tremendously widened the net of potential problem gamblers. What game became my recreational passion? Blackjack...

To be continued...
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