A Black Woman's Reflections on Casino Gambling

January 11, 2014

How Malcolm Ramsey won a lottery and then lost it all.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p01
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Malcolm Ramsey is a 55-year-old man suffering from schizophrenia and living in an assistant living facility in Tampa, Florida.

Ramsey has been diagnosed as being unable to care for himself and his finances and has a guardian. Yet he regularly bought lottery tickets and recently won $403,000, which he lost in just four weeks on shopping sprees he was unable to control, especially after people started showing up at the facility to “visit” him.

When his caretakers and the facility administrators noticed how much new stuff he had accumulated and the number of people who had suddenly started visiting him, they stepped in, but he had already run out of money.

Now the government wants to stop his benefits because of his win. As for Malcolm, his condition is so severe that he apparently is indifferent to what’s happening to him. According to the article about Ramsey, the police were called and have been able to recover some of the money, but most of it is gone.

One of the things that sticks out in this article is the following statement: “Anyone found to have taken advantage of Ramsey during the ordeal may be subject to criminal charges. It is illegal to exploit a disabled or elderly person in Florida, which has a large senior population. Violating this law can lead to up to 30 years in prison.”

I find this ironic since legal gambling in any form exploits disabled and elderly people. If you don’t believe me, go visit a casino, especially during the day, and see for yourself.


January 5, 2014

RE: Alicia Denice Brown

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p01
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I want to apologize to Alicia Denice Brown if my remarks in my post on January 3, 2014, have caused her harm. But the fact is that the story about how she left her four year old daughter in her vehicle while she gambled in a Maryland casino received national attention in the major media and more people saw it than will ever read my blog. Still, I am posting the following appeal from Mike, which gives some insight into who she is. Mike’s response suggests that there are people who care deeply about her and will see that she gets whatever help she needs to put this behind her and go on with her life.

From Mike:
“I happen to know the accused and her daughter. While she made an inexcusable choice to leave her daughter in a cold car, she is a very successful college educated black woman who happens to have some severe psychological issues. She was actually in the mall the majority of the time and is not addicted to gambling as the news outlets would make it seem. Please do not use the actions of a very mentally unhealthy person to push anti gaming propaganda.”

As Mike remarks, Alicia is a successful college educated black woman; so am I. I’m a senior professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Like Alicia, I was arrested, but not for leaving a child in my car; my children are adults and on their own.

I was arrested for driving very drunk on my way to Ho Chunk Casino in Sauk County, Wisconsin, about 45 minutes from my home in Madison. Had I not been arrested and taken off the road, I might have done harm to myself and others. I might have injured or killed someone and ended up sitting in a prison cell. I’m grateful for the officer who arrested me. It’s what got me into counseling so that I could deal with some of my own mental and emotional issues.

Writing about Alicia and all the other people I’ve written about in this blog isn’t just about anti-gambling propaganda; it’s about helping to save lives, the lives of the many black women who are getting “hooked,” if addiction is too strong a word, on slot machine gambling and putting ourselves and our loved ones in great danger. If nothing else, I hope that other black women read my blog, watch the news stories about Alicia, and realize that they are not alone. Somehow we need to connect with each other and support each other as we try to heal ourselves from whatever is causing us to spin out of control.


January 4, 2014

Harry Esteve and the Oregon Lottery

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p01
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It takes courage to report honestly about gambling, considering how it has penetrated just about every nook and cranny of our society and is backed by many of our public officials and is perfectly legal.

That there are victims is apparently of little or no importance to the people who keep telling us that the revenue from gambling is a big boost to our economy. After all, we might get a bit of a break on our property taxes, that is, if we own any property.

I think my tax break was about $300 last year, hardly enough to account for all the suffering this unrestrained gambling is bringing to people everywhere.

That’s why I’m so grateful to Harry Esteve, a senior political reporter for the Oregonian, for his excellent series of articles on the lottery and slot machine gambling in Oregon. I hope that our elected officials will take the time to read and maybe, just maybe, think twice before they approve more licenses for slot machines and casinos in an already over-saturated gambling market.


January 3, 2014

Maryland Casinos sell booze 24/7

Filed under: maryland casinos — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p01

It does not take much common sense and practical wisdom to conclude that serving booze 24/7 in casinos, even if you have to pay for it, is a really bad idea. But that’s what’s happening in several casinos in Maryland.

Local tavern owners and operators have been vocal about their opposition. They know they cannot compete with casinos if they are allowed to sell liquor around the clock.

But there is more to be concerned about, and that is the number of people who are going to lose even more of their wits as they fuel up while losing their money. Not to mention the increased numbers of drunk driving arrests that will occur as casino patrons, numbed by their booze and their losses stumble out of the casinos and into their cars and hit the road. I know. I was one of them, and the casino I gambled in, Ho Chunk in Wisconsin, didn’t sell booze all day and all night long.


(Un)Happy New Year, Alicia Denice Brown!

Filed under: black women and gambling,gambling addictions — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p01

For those of you who’ve made a New Year’s resolution to stop gambling, perhaps the arrest on New Year’s Eve of Alicia Denice Brown will be an incentive to stick by that resolution and get help doing so if you feel you need it.

According to authorities, Alicia left her four-year old daughter in her SUV for more than eight hours while she gambled in the Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, Maryland.

There have been many reported incidents of people leaving their children in their vehicles while they went gambling. And each time, the public is outraged, as we should be. But it’s important to remember that this would not be happening if casinos weren’t overpopulating our landscape.

This in no way excuses Alicia Denice Brown’s behavior. What she did deserves to be punished. For now, her daughter has been placed in the custody of a responsible relative. She was arrested and released on bail.  That she is African American might be a wake-up call to the black community and other communities of color to rally against the continuing expansion of casino and internet gambling. As I’ve said again and again, casino gambling is not a victimless form of entertainment. It is turning otherwise responsible people into gambling addicts.

I hope Alicia gets the help she needs. Unless she is just an evil person who does not care about her child, she can put this behind her, but she will need to face the fact that her behavior is probably symptomatic of how seriously she is addicted to gambling.


July 23, 2013


Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p07

On  January 21, 2012, I wrote a post about how the people of Detroit were sold a bill of goods when they decided, finally, to vote to allow three enormous casinos to be built in the city in an effort to generate new revenue that was supposed to help it rebuild its economic infrastructure. It was a bad idea from the beginning, especially when you consider that the casinos were built in a city where many residents are living at or below the poverty line. Now the city is broke, but the casinos and their greedy slot machines keep right on sucking up the dollar bills as city residents continue to seek the one great hit that will change their lives forever.

I’ve reposted below the January 21, 2012 article titled “Detroit: The City Casinos Could Not Save.”

When Michigan residents voted to allow casino gambling in Detroit almost two decades ago, they did so because of the really big promises that were made to them. They were told that casino gambling would bring much needed new revenue to the city so that services provided by the police and fire department would be vastly improved and their garbage would be collected each week and public transportation would be improved so that people who had jobs could get to them on time.

They were told that people would come from all over the country to gamble in the three casinos that now hover over the city’s cultural area, throwing their shadows across the ever growing expanse of deserted neighborhoods where some of the poorest residents reside.

It did not happen. The new and high tech gold rush that promised to spill its riches onto the streets of Detroit could not save the city. Detroit is going broke.

As experts like John Kindt and Earl Grinols have shown again and again, putting casinos in cities that are already struggling as a result of population loss, the decline of manufacturing jobs, failing schools, and other urban infrastructure problems too numerous to list here, does not bring economic development.

Of course, it would be foolish to attribute the fact that Detroit is broke to gambling. In a special report for WTVS-Detroit, Desiree Cooper showed how badly things are in Detroit and how some communities are trying to cope.

But every time I visit the city of my birth, I hear stories about people, most of them black women, who have lost what little they had in the casinos in the hope that they would get a little something back.

It’s too late to turn things around in Detroit and elsewhere in the country where casino gambling has been touted as the cure all for failing economies. But as more and more public officials across this country keep singing the same song about how gambling will create new jobs and improve their local and state economies, it’s important to keep in mind that for that to happen, ordinary, hardworking citizens must lose millions of dollars.

Back in the days when it was illegal, gambling was considered a really dumb way to try and “make” some money to pay our bills. It still is, despite what our politicians tell us as they sell us down the river.


April 11, 2013

Sharon Tirabassi’s $10 Million Win and Loss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p04
Tags: , , ,

I’m a big fan of Dr. Boyce Watkins and “Your Black World.” I admire his courage to speak out about social and economic issues that are particularly affecting our black communities. But considering that his areas of expertise are economics and finance, I am somewhat disappointed that he seems to have little to say about gambling. After he posted a link to an article about Sharon Tirabassi who won $10 million in a Canadian lottery and is now broke, I wrote the following comment, which I am re-posting here.

What’s missing from the discussion about how someone can go broke after having won $10, million in a lottery, and something I hope one day Dr. Boyce Watkins will address, is the problem of legalized gambling.Yes, it’s truly mind boggling to read about someone who won $10 million and then lost it all. But it’s important to keep in mind also that in order for her to win that much money, hard working people, Canadians in this instance, had to lose millions of dollars.

Even more pernicious than the lottery is the Casino industry. Slot machine gambling in particular is the fastest form of gambling on the planet and people in the U.S. and Canada and just about everywhere else are being encouraged to gamble and lose money so that our governments can generate new revenue.

Gambling has always been a sucker’s game. Legalizing it hasn’t changed that. I really would like to see Dr. Watkins address this. It’s urgent to talk about the negative economic effects of gambling  when you consider that casinos continue to be built in our communities and that the likelihood of ordinary citizens like Sharon Tirabassi winning millions of dollars are few and far between. Most of them are going broke instead.

Also, there is a larger story here. For one thing, I would like to know how much money Sharon spent on lottery tickets and other gambling before she won the big one. And more important, what’s happening to her now. What kind of help is she receiving so that she can recover from this really  hard to comprehend story and go on with her life? How is she doing now? Has she come to grips with what for most of us is so hard to imagine? Does she still gamble?


March 28, 2013

The Internet as the New Gambling Frontier

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p03
Tags: , ,

No matter how loud we holler, those of us who oppose gambling have still been unable to convince our elected officials that legalized gambling to help raise revenue is a really bad idea. Now some  of them are clamoring to legalize internet gambling. That’s going to be disastrous for millions of people in this country. They won’t have to leave the comfort of their favorite easy chair to lose the millions (maybe billions) of dollars our leaders hope to collect in new revenue.

Once this floodgate is opened, there will be no turning back. As I have stated in other blog posts and during readings and lectures about my book, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir, gambling is not a harmless activity. It already is  having very devastating effects on millions of people.

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report by Daniel Bortz is yet another attempt to raise public awareness about the negative effects of gambling on people who have no idea that it can be deadly addictive. Fortunately, I found my way out of the labyrinth that is gambling addiction before it was too late. But what about the millions of  people who will get caught up in and lose everything to gambling once it become just a keystroke away?


September 4, 2012

The longest Casino Winning Streaks, Brought to you by Toyota.

In one of the upbeat and informative Toyota sponsored “Who Knew?” videos titled  Casino Winners: What is the Longest Winning Streak, we learn that a gambler named Archie Karas started with a $50 bet in 1992 and had won over 40 million dollars at the craps and baccarat tables by 1995. Then he lost his millions in a mere three weeks.

There were stories about a couple of other big winners mentioned in “Who Knew,” including Patricia Demauro, who declined to say how much she won or lost. I’ll bet she lost a whole lot of money before she won.

The narrator of this video remarks that “Casino Gamblers are smiling, unless they lose.” What he doesn’t say is that as a group they are losing big time. At the beginning of the video, the narrator gives us an important fact that we need to keep in mind before we let the lure of this video entice us to try our luck. In 2011, casinos world-wide took in $144 billion in revenues. That means that gamblers LOST $144 billion.

So far, the Toyota Sponsored video has received over a million and a half views. I wonder how many of the people who watched it caught the irony of the video.  The narrator tells us that “Casino Gamblers are smiling, unless they lose.” Take a look around you the next time you go to a casino and count the number of smiley faces you see. I bet you won’t find many.

By the way, what you really need to know is that, according to the late great statistician, Thomas Cover, the odds of having a winning streak or “run” like the one Archie Karas had is 1 in 1. 5 million.

August 20, 2012

Why are Black Women so Broke?

In the months since I last posted comments on my blog, I’ve been working on a couple of new book projects that have nothing to do with gambling. They’re about African American women theater artists. I also spent time in Morocco in an intensive course in Arabic, a language for which I have a real passion.

But the problems that have been unleashed with the legalization and expansion of casino gambling are never far from my mind. In fact, just four days after I returned from spending six weeks in Fes, Morocco, on July 14, I presented my first professional paper at the National Conference on Gambling Problems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

It was an eye-opening experience.  Most of the presenters and participants were researchers or clinicians specializing in the treatment of gambling problems. Among the things I learned was how difficult it is to get anyone, not to mention African Americans and other people of color, to participate in the surveys researchers need in order to do the work they do, work that might one day affect policy decisions related to the expansion of gambling, especially internet gambling.

They remain hidden behind headlines such as two that recently caught my attention: the great Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps might have a bit of a gambling problem; black women are flat broke.

As I have mentioned previously when the rich and famous, including Gladys Knight, make headlines about their gambling problems, they can fall back on their money or their talent. Michael Phelps is already wealthy and will make millions more in endorsements.

But the people who are at most risk of losing everything at the gambling tables and slot machines, like the low-wage earning women of color who are the subject of the black-women-going-bankrupt headlines that are spreading around the blogosphere like a virus, rarely raise alarm.

I don’t want to make the mistake of attributing the appalling lack of wealth among African American women to gambling. The Women of Color Policy Network, which in August 2010, presented a paper titled “Disparities for Women of Color in Retirement,” to the U.S. Department of Labor, has very cogently argued that the lack of any kind of wealth among women of color has more to do with systemic inequalities of opportunity than anything else.

However, our politicians need to take a careful look at that report before they grant any more licenses to billionaire investors to build more casinos in our backyards.  They also need to hear from some of the African American women who now make up the fastest growing population of problem gamblers.  Maybe the women’s stories will help to persuade our politicians that we are now at a point of saturation with gambling in this country and that it’s causing more harm than good.


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