A Black Woman's Reflections on Casino Gambling

December 4, 2018

To Iyanla Vanzant and Oprah: Gambling Addiction is no Laughing Matter

In a 2012 episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass show, Oprah told her audience that her producers had received a letter from a woman in the United Kingdom, Shelly-Ann (not her real name), about her addiction to online gambling that would likely cause the end of her marriage.

Married for only a year, Shelly-Ann informed Oprah, her co-host Iyanla Vanzant, and the show’s studio and tv audiences via phone interview that she had gambled away more than  50,000 British pounds (about $53, 500 in today’s U.S. currency), the money her husband was saving for a down payment on a new home. Seven months pregnant and under bed rest, she didn’t know how to tell her husband what she’d done.

Obviously in deep distress, Shelly-Ann had reached out to the Oprah show for advice on how to deal with the consequences of her actions, including the likelihood of her marriage ending. After Oprah read Shelly-Ann’s letter, which concluded with her saying that she didn’t have a clue to how to repair the damage she had done, Iyanla said “Me either, girl.”

What happened next stunned me. I watched in disbelief as first Iyanla and then Oprah broke out into out into bout of raucous laughter. After their laughter subsided enough for them to talk, Iyanla who clearly has no experience dealing with anyone with a gambling addiction, went on to tell Shelly-Ann that her “baby is marinating in a toxic womb, a womb filled of fear and shame, and that’s what’s being fed, woven into the fiber of that child’s being” and other such nonsense, with Oprah agreeing with her. Here is the video.

Although they finally got around to giving Shelly-Ann advice, such as it was, I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched the video, “Where is the empathy? The compassion?  I also wondered, “What if that had been me? Or Gladys Knight, who struggled with a gambling addiction for years? Would they have laughed like that at us too?

I confess that I’ve never liked Iyanla Vanzant. I don’t think her way of dealing with people in crisis is helpful, and certainly not for a woman seeking help for a gambling addiction. As someone who also experienced a near devastating gambling addiction, I felt that Sherry-Ann didn’t deserve this kind of judgemental and condescending treatment. I wished she had just ended her call.

It hurts me to watch this show, which I’ve had to do a few times to write this post. Iyanla and Oprah’s behavior probably did more damage than good in terms of encouraging other women to reach out for help with their gambling problems before they destroy their lives and those of their loved ones. And that makes me very sad.


March 12, 2018

Me and Megyn Kelly

Filed under: black women and gambling,Meygn Kelly,Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p03

It’s been two weeks since I appeared as a guest on “NBC Megyn Kelly Today. Since then I’ve received a steady stream of emails from women around the country expressing their gratitude for allowing myself  to be interviewed on national television about my experience with gambling addiction.

When I was first contacted early in February by a producer inviting me to be on the show, I had to ask myself what I often ask about other people who go on national tv to talk about their problems. Why do they do it? Why would I do it? For what purpose? What do I hope to achieve? It certainly wasn’t to sell books, although Megyn Kelly promoted my memoir, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen.

Unless you’re on Oprah, being on tv might generate a few sales, but certainly not enough to significantly boost your bank account. My goal in accepting the invitation was to bring national awareness, at least for the few minutes I was on the show, to how slot machine gambling is negatively affecting the lives of millions of people, especially African American women.

The fact that I’m now receiving personal messages from women from around the country who tell me that they’ve never discussed their problem with gambling with anyone is enough for me to feel that this was all worthwhile.

I’m regularly asked about Megyn Kelly. What was she like? My response is that she was friendly, smart, and inviting. She greeted me right before I came onto the set. I was immediately put at ease. I was surprised by the size of the studio and the large audience, about 200 people. But once Megyn and I settled down in our chairs, it felt like any other casual conversation with an interesting colleague or acquaintance.

Sandra Adell, Author, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir

February 24, 2018

Getting Ready for NBC Megyn Kelly Live

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p02

About a week ago I got a call from a woman who introduced herself as a producer for NBC Megyn Kelly Today, inviting me to be a guest on the morning talk show. Kelly was planning to host a series of shows about addictions, especially what’s called behavior addictions and the producer asked if I would be willing to come and talk about the gambling addiction I experienced beginning in the Spring of 2005.

After assuring me that this was a legitimate call and not some kind of scam (a few weeks prior someone called and tried to convince me that I had won $2 million in the Publishing Clearing House Sweepstakes), I agreed, not because I expect to sell lots of books, but because it gives me an opportunity to discuss on a national platform the serious problem of gambling addiction among women, particularly black women.

Many of them are suffering silently. They don’t know where to go to seek help and therefore are not being diagnosed with a gambling addiction. Researchers working in the area of problem gambling and the few therapists in the country who specialize in gambling addiction need the diagnoses in order to collect the hard data required to at least make the argument that research and treatment therapies for gambling addiction need more funding than what’s being provided by the gambling industry.

If my appearance on this show encourages women to tell their stories, then perhaps the people who are working to develop therapies to treat the addiction can back up their arguments with data, with hard numbers, that slot machine gambling is not a harmless form of entertainment.

May 26, 2017

Cozy Kittens, Pink Cupcakes, and Gambling Addictions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p05
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When I began this blog in April, 2009, there was very little information online or anywhere else about women and compulsive gambling. Now, eight years later, this “hidden” problem is beginning to surface in the media in the U.S, the UK, and elsewhere as more women are being lured into gambling without ever having to leave the comfort of their homes.

A 2014 article by Ruth Lythe for the Daily Mail titled “How to Turn a Middle-Class Woman into a Gambling Addict” explains how the online gambling industry markets to middle class women in the UK.  Among the online sites she mentions are Kitty Glitter and Pink Casino. She explains how the cuddly and sugary sweet images of kittens and cupcakes on these sites are intended to entice women who might have never stepped a foot inside a brick and mortar casino into gambling away their lives.

Ruth Lythe tried a couple of the sites herself to demonstrate how easy and quickly one can be drawn into these potentially dangerous games of chance, games made all the more dangerous and insidious because, as the cases she presents of women who became compulsive gamblers through internet gambling, they can be played anywhere and no one will know. Each of the women interviewed described how they got hooked and the damage their gambling did to their families, their relationships, their lives.

Lythe’s advice to women: “Don’t be deceived by those cuddly pink icons — online gambling is a whole new ball game.” But she admits that the lure is everywhere. She writes, “In the first part of this year [2014] more than 60 online betting firms advertised on TV. Those targeting women pay millions to advertise in the daytime to catch an audience of housewives and stay-at-home mothers.”

Lythe gathered comments from spokeswomen and men from some of the sites she mentioned in her article. Like those who speak for casinos generally, they all insist that they’re committed to responsible gambling. Yet this is an industry that relies on gambling devices, slot machines, that are designed so that players will “play to extinction.”

May 5, 2017

Nerdy Black Girls don’t Gamble

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p05
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As I was going through an online search for something, anything about black women and gambling, I came across Jamie Broadnax’s blog, BlackGirlNerds. The blog’s cover photo is of a beautiful and vibrant young black woman.  The title of this particular article, dated December 12, 2016, is “Gaming Trends for Afro-Caribbean Women.”  Broadnax comments in the opening sentence that “Pointing out the differences between men and women can be a fun game.”

The differences she comments on have to do with gambling and why women tend to gravitate to slot machines rather than table games such as black jack and poker.  She writes,

“Women in general are more drawn to the slot machines because they are a single player, relaxing form of gambling entertainment. They offer the user a chance to communicate with the players around them and, to them, this is a much more socially acceptable gambling tool.”

After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Broadnax was describing her own experiences with friends at a casino, because slot machine gambling is, more often than not, a very solitary, anti-social activity. All you have to do is go to a casino and watch the behavior of the slot players. As anyone who has stood in front of a slot machine knows, there’s nothing nerdy about them. All you have to do is put money in and watch the symbols spinning. No thought; no strategy. Just spinning symbols that just might land on a payline.

The point of Ms. Broadnax’s article seems to be to encourage Afro-Caribbean Nerdy women to not let the men who populate the table games intimidate them into trying their luck there instead of at the slots. She also mentions that online gaming offers even more opportunity for Nerdy Black women to get their gambling grove on:

“Then there’s the online gaming world – a business which knows no boundaries and offers users the chance to rock up at a virtual table, settle in and play at their own pace. All this from the comfort of your living room.”

     What Ms. Broadnax doesn’t mention anywhere in her article is that the online gaming world is a dangerous one. Precisely because people can gamble from the comfort of their living rooms or anywhere on their mobile devices, what she’s presenting as a harmless form of entertainment is in fact very insidious. Black women are becoming addicted to gambling in alarming rates. But since this is such a silent addiction–friends and families often don’t know what’s happening to their loved ones until it’s too late–they often suffer the pain, guilt, and shame associated with compulsive gambling alone.

My advice to Afro Caribbean women and nerdy black women in general is to skip the casino environment and enjoy a few games of bid whist in the cozy comfort of your living rooms and those of your BFF’s!

Sandra Adell, Author, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir

April 29, 2017

Older Women and Compulsive Gambling

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

I thank Tanya Mohn, a writer for the New York Times, for her April 28, 2017 article about older women and casino gambling. Despite the fact that the Casino industry is stronger than ever, interest in its negative effects on vulnerable communities, especially older women, is relegated to the handful of scholars and researchers who specialize in gambling addictions. The general public remains oblivious to the damage that is being done, not only here in the U.S., but globally. Maybe this article will help to bring more public awareness to what is becoming an epidemic, albeit a silent one. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/business/retirement/fighting-compulsive-gambling-among-women.html?emc=eta1

January 14, 2016

The Powerball: winners and losers

Filed under: powerball — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p01
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Well, the billion dollar powerball frenzy has come to an end. Perhaps now the dreamers will step back into reality and use the money they spend on lottery tickets to build some real wealth. This might have been fun for millions of people, but for millions of other folks, those near the bottom of America’s economic ladder, all this did was feed their illusions of getting rich quick or at the very least, getting out of debt.

I share with Les Bernal, director of STOP PREDATORY GAMBLING, a serious concern that this lottery has done great damage to people who are struggling with gambling addictions. Also, since the lottery is generally marketed to people who can least afford to participate in this predatory game of chance, it’s contributing to the economic inequality we’re now experiencing.

As Bernal remarked in an article for Marketwatch by Quentin Fottrell titled “Why the $1.6 Billion Powerball is Everything that’s Wrong with America,” “There is not a single act of government today that promotes more inequality of opportunity. . . . This is government-sponsored gambling. It’s a ‘Hail Mary’ investment strategy for the poor.”

I agree with Les Bernal that there is something terribly wrong with a society that markets this kind of “fun” to its citizens in the interest of generating new revenue for education, social services, etc.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, who has been working tirelessly to educate the African American community about how to increase our wealth, explained in a recent podcast that in most cases, “people who win lotteries buy lots of tickets.” Dr. Watkins doesn’t buy them. He knows that they’re a waste of money.

Dr. Watkins also commented on why lottery winners often go broke. He argues that “financial outcomes depend on our habits.” If we’re in the habit of spending wildly and not saving, and buying lots and lots of lottery ticekts or engaging in other forms of gambling, then those habits continue.

The people who went out and bought tickets in a frenzy over the past couple of weeks subsidized those who won. And the real winner is the U.S. government which gets an enormous cut, right off the top. As far as I’m concerned, this billion dollar powerball frenzy has turned into the biggest con game the “world” has ever seen.

Sandra Adell, author: Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir

January 13, 2016

Billion Dollar Lottery Frenzy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p01
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It has been over a year and a half since I posted anything on this blog, not because I’m no longer interested or concerned about the negative effects gambling is having on our communities, but rather because I needed to take time off to complete some other, unrelated academic projects. But now that the country seems to be caught up in billion dollar lottery frenzy, I cannot remain quiet.

Let me be frank: behind the excitement is a great deal of suffering. As I’ve said time and time again, in order for anyone to WIN this kind of money, millions of people have to LOSE. For the past week, I’ve watched in dismay as smiling news anchors, including Lester Holt, whom I absolutely adore, remind us that the lottery is now over a billion dollars, the largest prize the world has ever seen.

The non- stop media cover is encouraging Americans everywhere to go out and spend their hard earned money on lottery tickets despite the incredible odds that are stacked against us winning. Ticket buyers are encouraged to talk on air about what they’ll do with all that money. They all have lofty dreams of helping make the world a better place after they’ve satisfied their own dreams and fantasies.

What we aren’t hearing about are the people who are losing what little they have chasing these pipe dreams, people who now are rushing to the nearest liquor store or other lottery sales outlet with their pay checks and social security checks, and whatever other money they can muster up, even though they can hardly pay their rent or keep their utilities on.

I’m sorry to be such a party pooper. Call me Sandy Buzz Kill, but this is what’s behind the smiles, the frenzy, the pipe dreams. What disturbs me most is that there is barely a whimper from people whom other people listen to when it comes to our finances. So far, I’ve heard only one person speak out: Mellody Hobson.

Although she commands attention as a regular commentator about financial issues, she was featured for a brief moment, or maybe fifteen seconds, this week on one of the network stations during which she raised objections to what is happening with this lottery game. I don’t remember what station she was on, so I’ve posted comments she made for a December, 2012 article titled “Is Playing the Lottery for Losers” in Black Enterprise online.

Sandra Adell, author: Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir.

August 9, 2014

R. J. Reynolds and the $23.6 billion verdict

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p08
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The fallout from the $23.6 billion dollar verdict against R.J. Reynolds tobacco company that Ms. Cynthia Robinson recently won for her husband, Michael Johnson’s death from smoking should make the owners and operators of casinos and their allies, including our elected public officials take notice.

Like the tobacco industry, the casino gambling industry refuses to acknowledge that one of its products, slot machine gambling may be hazardous to your health. Each year, thousands of people are becoming addicted to casino gambling, which continues to be promoted as a harmless, even a glamorous, form of entertainment.

Lives are being destroyed as a result of the encroachment of slot machine gambling everywhere, not only in casinos, but in restaurants and taverns, as our elected officials continue to encourage us to lose our money, and our lives in an activity that doesn’t produce anything that contributes to the public good.

In a response to the R.J. Reynolds verdict, Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor of finance and the author of Black American Money: How Black Power Can Thrive in a Capitalist Society, wrote the following comment in his blog:

“Other institutions that could be compared to the tobacco industry might be the prison industrial complex and slavery itself. In both cases, a harmful business model was allowed to exist because there was so much money involved that even those on the inside of these capitalist behemoths knew they were living a lie. But once the money gets that big, even those running the economic machine are almost entirely helpless when it comes to correcting it.”

Dr. Watkins is an activist and one of a very few African Americans to hold a Ph.D. in finance. He regularly writes about issues pertaining to the financial health of the black community. But he curiously is silent about the gambling industry, which like the tobacco industry, is one of those “capitalist behemoths” with a harmful business model” that exists because there is so much money involved.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, casino gambling is making a few wealthy white men even richer at the expense of millions of poor people by promoting the dream of great jackpot that is just a bet max button away.


June 26, 2014

Barbara DeFoe Whitehead and Gambling’s Effects on Poor People

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandy Adell @ 12:00 p06
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In a recent Op-Ed article for the New York Times, Barbara Defoe Whitehead very succinctly wrote about the negative impacts gambling is having on our communities. What we need now is for more people to voice their concerns as this high tech gold rush continues to proliferate throughout the country (and globally), wreaking havoc in its wake, especially on poor people.

Sandra Adell, Author, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir

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