STOP gambling addicts by requiring financial health checks in online casinos
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Please help me request that it be mandatory for casinos to take preventative measures to stop gambling addicts. Credit checks and income verification with loss limitations should be required for each individual that gambles online.
I moved to New Jersey two years ago from DC for a great job, paying $100,000+ per year. Shortly after moving, I was drawn by an advertisement for online casinos, offering a free $25 just for signing up. I didn't have many friends or hobbies in my new state, so I had a lot of time to myself. I had always enjoyed playing casino games and free money was enticing. I soon found that there were many casinos which offered these incentives to play games for money legally online. Early on, I won about $2,000, and pretty quickly! How thrilling...but then I continued to play and ended up losing that $2,000. I began depositing my own money, small deposits at first, $20, $40, $60...little by little depositing more and more but lost those too. My little losses started to add up.
It only took a few months before I was on a huge downward spiral. Soon my total losses added up to thousands of dollars of my own money. I should have stopped then, but it was fun, it was something to do and surely I could win some portion of the losses back, right? In a year I had lost most of what I had available in my checking and savings so I took out loans, I sold my car, I sold clothes online, I literally put in every penny I could find towards trying to win back the money I had lost...or at least some of what I now owed to creditors. I would come home after work and play through the night. I would be winning, knowing I should quit, but always wanting to win just a little more and then my luck would change and I would lose it all. Even when I was winning, up $5,000 on a $200 deposit, somehow it wasn’t enough for me to cash out, and I would give it all back. I was sick. So I'd make another deposit to try again and the cycle would continue.
In frustration and desperation of getting the money that I had lost back, I was out of control, betting bigger and bigger (completely sober from drugs or alcohol, also, which makes it even more scary). I knew logically in my head that I should stop, but the addiction was always more powerful and for whatever reason I could not muster up the willpower to stop myself from physically pressing that bet button. If I kept playing, I thought surely, eventually, I would hit that big payout to make it all go away. Countless nights, there I was, bet after bet after bet and after losing it all, I would try sleep for a few hours, wake up having to go to work, and wish so badly that it was just a dream...
It was never a dream and no one was there to stop me because no one knew.
It took two years of somehow finding ways and money to gamble with before I hit rock bottom. I had maxed out my personal credit cards, was unable to get a loan from any lender, and whenever I would receive a paycheck, I had found a way with the online casinos to deposit the balance in my checking account as an ACH payment, which would post the next day and then also deposit that same "available balance" from my checking account as a debit card transaction which withdrew the balance immediately, essentially giving myself 2x the amount in my checking account. I found ways to get more to play with, even if it meant I would have negative checking account balances once they all posted. If I lost the money, the ACH would overdraw my checking account the next day.
In the last few months, out of last-resort desperation, the only access I had to money was on my company credit card. At first, I was only using it for necessities, but fell victim to my addiction and soon started making deposits. $10,000 later I was out of options. My boss was notified by the accounting department of my charges to the card and I sat down with my directors and told them everything.
In two years I have given $250,000+ to the casinos, from my bedroom, from my phone, online just by playing games. I owe $120,000 to creditors and have reached out to my family for help. I am lucky to have a very supportive family to help me through this difficult situation. There are resources to help me mentally and my father will take over my finances but to fully recover from this will be a very, very long journey.
There is no denying that I am ultimately responsible for my actions, but I believe my situation could have been prevented by if there were mandates in place to protect consumers who have gone beyond casual gaming norms.
Not once was I contacted directly by a casino to ask if I had a problem and that is a huge problem in itself for all persons who choose to gamble. It's easy to spot a problem gambler in person, and if someone were to be monitoring my deposits from the online server or even the banks, it would be undeniably clear that I had a massive problem. There is nothing that requires them to stop me, or even reach out to ask me if I have problem or suggest I get help. In fact, it was the opposite. If I had an issue with a deposit because the bank withdrawal limit had been reached or a credit card was declined, some sites would pop up a customer service chat box to ask how they could assist you. They weren’t asking if you had a gambling problem, they were asking how they could help you to make the deposit, further promoting the issue by suggesting you contact the bank directly or try a different deposit method.
I cannot take the casinos to court because this was my "own" doing. The online casinos have a self-exclusion policy, but addiction is such that I never wanted to give up the chance to win. Also, to assume that their required messaging prevents the majority of problem gamblers from continuing to place bets is absurd. “Bet with your head, not over it.” “Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER” Ha, that would mean I was admitting I had a problem and when you value your reputation to your friends and family, it’s not something an individual with this addiction will do until it’s far too late.
I know my story is not unique. If I had been flagged, cut off from depositing when my credit score dropped below an acceptable level, or if my losses were greater than a certain percentage of my income, I would have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands more than I do today. I couldn’t help myself and I was the only person that could have. These are the kinds of limitations I want to propose the casinos be required by law to make. There is a maximum amount of how much you can bet, but there is no maximum amount of how much you can lose. How can it be that I do not qualify for a loan, but I can continue to give away whatever money I do manage to find to the casinos so easily?
I believe it is my civil duty to try to prevent this scenario for anyone else who is in a similar situation. I want to make a monumental change across the nation to benefit not only others with the horrible condition of gambling addiction, but also benefit the banks and loan issuers who will later be taken to court for a settlement because their client cannot repay, as their money was given to a casino. Gambling addiction is so real and is becoming more of an issue, especially in New Jersey, now that there is online access where you can hide behind a screen and play against computers, programmed to take your money (the "house edge"). Our economy cannot handle the ease and availability of gambling that these casinos provide online and I fear the problem is much, much greater than we are aware.
Just as we need background checks for gun owners, we need to be sure people with excessive financial problems cannot gamble online. Self exclusion options are not enough, especially when they are not pushed by casinos to those who have gone beyond their limit. Our representatives have let us down when they legalized online gambling with no checks and balances in place or real understanding of the consequences. I would like to note that age limitations are not enough. I don’t have statistical data to support this, but how much money do the majority younger people have to lose anyway? I assume that total potential loss amounts tend to increase with age for the average person as income typically increases with age.
Gambling is meant to be entertaining, but something needs to be done to prevent casual gamblers from becoming addicts and continuing to spiral like I did. I know by implementing change in casino practices, our society will be so much better off for banks, creditors and people suffering with gambling addiction. This will save lives.
Please help me push this issue to those who can do something about it and have financial health checks be a requirement for the big casinos to operate online.
Thank you for your support, I hope you will provide your signature to have this change made.
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