Recovering Addict: Gambling ‘Made Me A Person That I Was Not’

New York Sen. Joseph Addabbo brought in experts to discuss issues surrounding gambling addiction

New York state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who led the push to legalize sports betting in New York, hosted a virtual discussion Wednesday evening to help educate people on problem gambling in all its forms.

According to the New York Council on Problem Gambling, some 4.3% of adults in New York are experiencing issues due to their gambling activity.

“This month is Responsible Gaming Education Month, as well as recovery month, which leads us to our meeting tonight,” Addabbo said by way of introduction. “New York’s expansion into sports betting back in 2019 and mobile sports betting in 2022, combined with the already existing gaming that we had in New York, put gaming addiction into a new light, a new heightened awareness.

“We put painstaking efforts into the mobile sports betting language with about 12 safety measures and protocols with regards to gaming addiction, and an additional $6 million for gaming addiction programs.”

From there, Addabbo handed the bulk of the meeting over to Scott Meyer, who is a recovering gambling addict, a gambling addiction speaker, and a certified recovery peer advocate for the New York Council on Problem Gambling.

“You’ll never hear me say don’t gamble,” Meyer said. “The words will never come out of my mouth. But recognize that problematic gambling is the issue.”

Meyer detailed his descent into addiction, including a trio of suicide attempts.

“Gambling was fun for me at some point in my life, as it should be. It’s entertainment. It’s like going to a Broadway show, or going to a ballgame.” Meyer said. “It began affecting my behavior somewhere around the age of 30. And for 12 years, gambling became the central point of my total existence. It changed my character, made me a person that I was not.

“Problem gambling caused so much harm that it led to actions that most, including myself, could not fathom possible. The most prevalent being three suicide attempts, and being arrested for acts directly attributable to the devastation caused by problem gambling.”

Getting help

Meyer, a married father of five, detailed all the issues associated with problem gambling, from lying to his family to emotional problems to guilt and shame, all leading to one day walking into a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in an effort to turn his life around.

“It’s an organization that exists for the betterment of human beings whose only desire is to stop gambling,” Meyer said. “I walked into a room on July 15, 2013, with my shoulders down, my head down, an emotional wreck, and not knowing where to go, what to do, how I was going to get there, and if I was even capable of getting there. And I walked out of that room with my head up and my shoulders back, and I said, ‘I am going to fight,’ because I had hope from people who have experienced this.”

When it comes to online sports betting, Meyer had a cautious note — and also believes the government should step in with an advertising ban. While a congressman from New York has proposed a ban, it has not received action.

“It’s increased the exposure to gambling to everyone, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Meyer said of online betting. “It is here, it is present, it is part of our communities, part of our existence. The advertisements being presented to us are in our face, in front of us, and not going away. Unless there’s government legislation that restricts that, it’s not going away.”

In addition to Meyer, others participating in the Zoom meeting included Rachel Lauria, the bureau director for the New York Council on Problem Gambling, and Warlito Deleon, the training manager for Resorts World Casino New York.

New York residents experiencing symptoms of problem gambling are encouraged to call the New York Council on Problem Gambling’s helpline at 833-HERETOHELP.

Photo: Lev Radin/Getty Images

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