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Hitting the Jackpot — Another Form of Addiction

There are drug courts for people with drug addiction issues. There are mental health courts for people with mental health problems. People convicted of domestic violence and driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol attend treatment programs as part of their probation in an effort to rehabilitate them.

The addiction that receives little or no empathy or understanding in the criminal justice system is gambling. Compulsive gambling was described by Gamblers Anonymous members in a recent article as an addiction — one that starts small but requires ever bigger infusions of cash to catch the same thrill. This addiction is one that engenders all kinds of crimes in our state, including:

  • Murder — An elderly father, mother and their police officer son murdered an elderly neighbor and spent the proceeds at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino.
  • Embezzlement — A trusted bookkeeper embezzled funds from her employer of 15 years in order to gamble, and ultimately lose, more than $80,000 in card games at the Rivers Casino Players Club.
  • Elder fiduciary abuse — A family member stole $119,000 from an elder whose finances she was managing. The money was spent — and lost — at West Virginia’s Mountaineer Casino.

Using probation conditions to help gambling addicts

How can the courts help people addicted to gambling return to a law-abiding life? Gamblers, like any other addicts, should be sentenced by the courts to probation; at the same time, the gambling addict must recognize the problem as a lifelong battle. Alcoholics attend Alcoholics Anonymous, often daily, to find the strength to battle their addiction to alcohol. Drug addicts can resort to Narcotics Anonymous. The criminal justice system can help the compulsive gambler by providing a support network and probation conditions that act to rein in temptation with such orders as:

  • Daily attendance at Gamblers Anonymous, with proof of attendance provided to the court or probation office
  • Selection of a  Gamblers Anonymous sponsor within a month of joining
  • Total abstinence from gambling
  • Avoidance of gambling establishments
  • No employment in any job requiring fiduciary responsibility
  • Review of personal finances by the probation department on a regular basis
  • Smartphone, computer and other internet-accessible devices subject to random search by police or probation for evidence of online gambling

If you or someone you love is entangled in the criminal justice system because of an addiction to compulsive gambling, seek compassionate and skillful legal help from an experienced Berks County criminal defense attorney.

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