Posts Tagged ‘problem gambling’

Blackjack Addiction

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

You really can have too much of a good thing. There are people who think otherwise, but they are wrong. In moderation, blackjack can be one of the greatest games in the world. It is a fun game with the perfect mix of skill and chance. With a little strategy, your odds of coming out ahead are really quite good (at least, for a casino game).

Some people take it too far, though. Maybe they play too often. Maybe they play too long. Maybe their wagers are too big. Maybe they spend money trying to chase their losses. Make they take out a line of credit and bet with money they can’t afford to lose. All of those are symptoms of problem gambling, which is the #1 problem in the gambling industry, just as alcoholism is the biggest problem in the alcohol and bar industries.

Problem gamblers can lose a lot of money playing black jack online. Even if they create a plan enabling them to be responsible, they usually break those plans. If the person was able to control the addiction, it wouldn’t be an addiction. There are different levels of problem gambling, from those who spend more money than they wanted to those who lose their house, job and family because of addiction. People suffering from any of the different kinds of problem gambling can get help from Gamblers Anonymous. The group, which has a website at, is dedicated to helping problem gamblers meet support groups, helping them get the information they need, and giving them individual counseling through web chat, a phone call, or another medium.

GamCare Helps Problem Gamblers

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

There are a lot of great things about playing at online casinos as a hobby. It is a fun way to spend your time and unlike most hobbies that only cost money, there is a chance that you can earn money doing it. Since the games have a house edge, you are more likely to lose money than to win, but everyone plays knowing the possibility of raking in big bucks. Websites like provide listings of the best and most reputable online casinos in the industry, giving you the tools you need to play at casinos that are safe.

Unfortunately, regardless of the protections offered by the best online casinos, there is still risk in gambling. One of those risks is developing problem gambling behavior, including gambling addiction. The good news is that there are a lot of resources available to those struggling with gambling problems. One of those resources is GamCare. is a group dedicated to providing “support, information and advice to anyone suffering through a gambling problem,” as stated on their website.

Though it affects a very small portion of gamblers, problem gambling is a very serious issue for those affected. Studies have shown that people with gambling addiction also suffer from other addictions, such as alcoholism and drug addiction. If you have any other type of addiction, it may be a good idea to stay away from casino gambling to be safe. I’m not the expert, though; that is the folks at GamCare.

If you need help, GamCare offers many ways to receive help. They have a phone number you can call between 8:00 a.m. and midnight to speak with a trained counselor. For those who aren’t comfortable talking on the phone, they can use an online chat system or a forum to get help and information.

The goal of GamCare, according to their website, is to “improve the understanding of the social impact of gambling, promote a responsible approach to gambling,” and to “address the needs of those adversely affected by a gambling dependency.”

It’s okay to take a break!

Friday, April 15th, 2011

For most people, this goes without saying, but I want to say it anyway. It’s okay to take a break in blackjack, even if you’re on a hot streak. Recently there was a case of a woman who was playing blackjack at a Las Vegas casino for 15 straight hours. She didn’t want to leave, even for a bathroom break, because she was on such a hot streak. Before long, the manager had to escort her out of the casino because a foul smell was bothering others in the casino. Considering that she had gone more than 15 hours without a bathroom break, you can probably guess what the smell was.

Things like this happen are not as rare as you might think, though, so it’s important to point out how unnecessary it is. Streaks happen in blackjack, but your odds, in the long run, don’t change if you stick to basic strategy. If you’re counting cards, you want to keep playing while there are a lot of unplayed ten cards. Otherwise, even if you’re on a hot streak, there’s no reason you can’t walk away for a bit. Your odds will be the same when you return.

The woman refused to leave because she was superstitious and didn’t want to give up her seat or sit out a hand. That’s ridiculous, but to a gambling addict, it seems perfectly normal. Prolonged periods of time spent gambling without taking a break are a warning sign of problem gambling, so even if you aren’t having bowel problems like that woman, if you are playing too long, that might be a sign that you need help. Playing that long without a break can’t be fun, anyway, and why are you playing if you’re not having fun? Blackjack is a fun game and certainly shouldn’t be looked at as a way of making money. That’s investing, which is not the same as gambling. So if you need a break, take one, no matter how the cards are playing out.

Ukraine to Take Rights from Problem Gamblers

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The Ukrainian Parliament has proposed a bill that would strip problem gamblers of certain rights to protect them from themselves. If it becomes law, people the government deems to be gambling addicts will not have total control over their finances.

The current Civil Code of Ukraine, the government can limit a person’s legal capacity if they are deemed to suffer from mental illness or abuse alcohol or drugs. The current bill in Parliament would amend that code to include those who suffer from an “abuse of gambling.” The law would define someone as a gambling addict if they spend “a considerable part of his/her earnings on gambling, sells property, thereby worsening their financial situation and that of their loved ones.”

If someone is deemed under the Civil Code to be a gambling addict, they would not be able to sell their own property without permission from a trustee. In order to have those civil rights restored, the person would have to prove in court that they are no longer a problem gambler.

The bill was proposed by Yuri Odarchenko, an influential politician in the Yulia Tymoshenko party. The bill has not yet reached a vote. The Ukraine passed a law banning gambling in 2009, but a number of gambling businesses still exist in the country. In 2010, a Premier Palace Casino even went to court and proved that its business is legal. The Ukrainian government is also planning to liberalize its gambling market, begin issuing licenses for casinos, and open several casinos in the Crimea province.

Blackjack Safest Casino Game

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

There are a number of reasons that blackjack is my game of choice. It is fun, provides strategy without being as complicated as poker, and has good odds. In fact, it has the best odds in the casino if you adhere to basic strategy. If you count cards, you can even tilt the odds in your favor. Now, however, there is another reason to favor blackjack over other casino games: it is safer.

A recent study conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Sydney found that blackjack is the game least likely to lead to problem gambling. Gambling addiction, problem gambling, or whatever you want to call it, is a major issue and although it only affects a small number of gamblers, it is a large enough problem that it needs to be addressed. People with gambling problems can lose their jobs, their homes, their families and more.

According to the study, though, blackjack players are the least likely casino gamblers to develop a gambling problem. The study interviewed patients at gambling rehabilitation centers about what forms of gambling they engage in, among other factors. The results of the study are that fewer than 1% of those who were getting treatment for gambling addiction cite blackjack as their game of choice. No-limit poker games and sports betting were the most represented, with both totaling 85%, indicating that they are the forms of gambling most prone to develop into a problem.

The study also found a correlation between alcohol and drug use and problem gambling. This may not come as a surprise, but the problem gamblers reported that most of their irresponsible betting was done while under the influence. The study found that intoxication while gambling makes the player 15,000% more likely to engage in behavior that leads to financial problems.

Based on the results of this study, it seems that the moral of the story is this: Don’t gamble while intoxicated. Stick to blackjack.

School Financial Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Another Dumb Crook News segment. Folks, I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’m going to say it again. Blackjack and other gambling games should be done in your leisure time with money that you have to spend on leisure. In other words, if you don’t have enough disposable income to justify gambling, you shouldn’t do it. You don’t need a lot of money to play blackjack, but if you don’t have the money, don’t play. How do you know if you don’t have enough? Well, if you have to steal money to play, that is a good indication. Such is the case here.

Susan Thanh Litwin pleaded guilty to embezzling $279,000 from a technology school in Alexandria, Virginia. Litwin, 37, was the financial technician for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology when she withdrew $279,000 in student funds. Most of the money she spent playing blackjack at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Her attorney said that she had a gambling addiction, which may be true or just a convenient excuse. In either case, it doesn’t excuse stealing money from children to fund a gambling habit. Litwin resigned from her position with the school, having worked there for 18 years, once her embezzlement was discovered.

This morning, Litwin pleaded guilty to embezzlement and will be sentenced in July. Since the school she worked for receives federal funding, her embezzlement was treated as a federal crime. She faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines in addition to restitution. Taking steps to pay back the money, Litwin has relinquished ownership of a house in Florida and will forfeit her retirement savings, which amount to approximately $60,000.

Pleading for leniency in front of the judge, Litwin said “I love the kids. Working with them… it’s my passion.” She then added, “I just love playing blackjack more, so I decided to take money from the kids. Besides, I assumed that I’d win money, in which case I could have paid it back.” Okay, I made up that last quote.

Not much more needs to be said here, but it’s disturbing how many cases of embezzlement I’ve seen where the funds have been used as blackjack gambling money. Here’s hoping Ms. Litwin never sets foot in a casino again.

MA Bill Bans Marketing to Gambling Addicts

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The U.S. state of Massachusetts is considering legalizing gambling, with lawmakers discussing a gambling bill on the floor of the House that would authorize full casinos as well as slot machines at the state’s dog and horse racing tracks. If the bill passes and becomes law, gamblers in Massachusetts will have somewhere to play blackjack other than online.

Recently the House voted on three amendments to the bill, approving one and rejecting two. One of the rejected amendments would have required the casinos to post the odds (all of the odds, not just the house edge) of each slot machine in a conspicuous place in 18-point type. This amendment was rejected by a 137-20 vote.

The other rejected amendment required the newly created state gaming commission to conduct specific background checks on all applicants for jobs at the casino resorts. It would also require drug testing, fingerprinting and more. Since the amendment was struck down, the gaming commission may still conduct those background investigations, but it is not required. Also, the casinos may conduct their own investigations. This amendment was rejected by a 112-45 vote.

It is the other amendment, the one that passed, that is of the greatest concern to me. By a slim 80-76 vote, the Massachusetts House approved an amendment to the casino bill that allows problem gamblers to voluntarily request to opt out of marketing for the casinos. The players are then placed on a “self-exclusion” list and the casinos will be prohibited from marketing to anyone on that list.

This is of concern to blackjack players and players of any casino game that have a gambling problem. Though the overwhelming majority of blackjack players gamble responsibly, there are some who do not. Those problem gamblers, according to some, can develop a gambling addiction (though some in the psychological community dispute the “addiction” claim).

Many people believe that it would be hazardous to market to someone with a gambling problem, because they might not be able to say no. They may end up going to the casino and losing lots of money because they couldn’t control themselves. Those who are concerned with the financial and mental safety of compulsive gamblers support legislation that bans marketing to those individuals. Those who opposed the amendment state that is unnecessary interference in the free market by the legislature.

I’m normally very supportive of a free market and a laissez-faire approach to economics by the government. However, I think allowing problem gamblers to opt out of being subject to marketing by the casinos is a good idea. The only downside is I don’t know how difficult it will be for casinos to make sure they don’t accidentally market to someone on the list. That is certainly something that needs to be addressed.

With that amendment passed, the full bill will continue to be debated by the state House. Earlier this month, the bill was modified to remove language that would have made online gambling illegal. With that language removed, there is no ban on online gambling in the state of Massachusetts.

Bank Robber Arrested at Casino

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I’m thinking of starting a Dumb Crook News subsection of my blackjack blog. It seems like at least every month there is a new entry for it. Today the dumb (alleged) crook is Joseph Baer.

Baer was the suspected robber of three banks in Philadelphia. He had a previous bank robbery conviction and was known to have a compulsive gambling problem, so the FBI suspected that he was stealing the money and then heading straight over to casinos to use it.

They were right. Baer was caught while playing blackjack at the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A security guard at the casino recognized him and notified a state trooper, who held him until the FBI arrived to charge him with the federal crimes of bank robbery.

Back in 2004, Baer was convicted of two bank robberies and spent six years in prison. Earlier this year, he was released to a halfway house. Obviously, he wasn’t rehabilitated, because he promptly fled the halfway house and then immediately started robbing banks again.

Wait, do I have to say allegedly? I mean, he was caught on camera doing it! On April 13, the same day he had fled the halfway house, he showed up at a PNC Bank and was captured by surveillance cameras wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey and robbing the bank. That’s two crimes in one, right? If Baer had known about the surveillance cameras, which he should have learned about in court in 2004, I imagine he would have covered his face or at least not been seen wearing a McNabb jersey. That’s just embarrassing.

A few days later, security footage shows Baer robbing a TruMark Financial Credit Union while wearing a John Lennon T-shirt. Well, at least this time he wore something cool. So it seems that he learned his lesson and figured that if he’s going to be seen robbing banks, at least he should look cool while doing it.

Or not. A few days later he was again caught on surveillance video robbing a Citizens Bank, this time wearing an Iron Man shirt. Okay, so this guy’s an idiot and a nerd. I get it.

Baer will face charges for three bank robberies and fleeing a halfway house, so this man should be behind bars for quite some time. Maybe this time while he’s in there he’ll think about the consequences of robbing banks. Because his game of choice is my game of choice, and probably the game of choice of my readers, I feel a need to say something about problem gambling. If you have a gambling problem, you should seek help. Gamblers Anonymous can help you, as can many other groups. You should always gamble responsibly and only wager money that you can afford to lose.

To help you out, here’s a little quiz. You know you have a gambling problem if:
a.    The FBI believes you’re a compulsive gambler
b.    You need to rob banks to pay for your gambling habit
c.    Even while on the run from the law you can’t resist hitting the blackjack tables
d.    All of the above

Man Sues Casino for Loaning Him Money

Friday, March 5th, 2010

In my blog I make a point to discuss gambling responsibly and taking a personal responsibility for your habits and actions, so when I heard about this case I had to write about it. A Kentucky man is suing a casino in Indiana for loaning him money while he was drunk.

Jimmy L. Vance was gambling in what was then called Caesar’s Casino (now the Horseshoe Southern Indiana) back in 2004 and lost $75,000 to the casino. What’s worse is that it wasn’t Vance’s money. After presumably losing his own money at the casino (none of the news stories say), Vance took credit advances for the $75,000 in several installments. Vance says he remembers borrowing the first $20,000 but not the rest.

Vance has not paid the money he owes and is suing the casino for taking advantage of him. According to Vance, the casino loaned him money when he was clearly inebriated and, therefore, not of sound mind to make a decision to borrow money. Vance’s lawyers are arguing that if he was drunk he cannot legally enter into a contract with the casino. Therefore, the loan contract would be null and void and he would not owe the casino a thing. His lawyers also state that surveillance videos clearly show that Vance was intoxicated.

The casino argues that he was fully functional and didn’t sway or stagger. They say he seemed fine while playing blackjack, walking the casino floor and talking to the dealers and cocktail waitresses. If the casino wins this case, they could seek up to $225,000 under Indiana law, which includes what Vance currently owes, interest and legal fees.

One of the issues at question is whether the casinos can legally offer a loan to a player who is drunk. Some see that as taking advantage of someone who is vulnerable. Others believe that it is the responsibility of the player to make their own decisions, including how much to drink. Most states, however, can charge a bartender for serving alcohol to someone who is intoxicated and hold them legally liable if there is an alcohol-related incident, such as DUI. It’s not a stretch for the same concept to be applied to a casino giving out loans. Similarly, several players have sued casinos for allegedly taking advantage of their gambling addiction, but so far none have been successful.

This case is kind of a he said-she said and I don’t know the truth, but I will tell you this. You should never take a loan from a casino. Ever. If you don’t have the money to gamble with, you have no business gambling. You should only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and if you need a loan to gamble, this is obviously not the case. Aside from that, the only advice I can give you is to be careful how much alcohol you consume in a casino, because the more you drink, the worse your decisions get.

Machine to Help with Problem Gambling

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Gambling, whether it’s done in a brick and mortar or online casino, can be a fun way to spend your time if you are responsible. Like many forms of entertainment, including sporting events, movies, theme parks and more, it costs money to play your favorite casino games. One difference, though, is that you don’t necessarily know how much it will cost you ahead of time. That’s where budgeting and planning how much to spend ahead of time comes in handy.

Some people, however, have a hard time doing that and even if they do plan, in the excitement of the moment have a hard time walking away when they should. That is a form of problem gambling, an ailment that afflicts too many players worldwide. Now there is a machine available that can help people manage their money more effectively.

A Canadian gaming company called TechLink has introduced the Responsible Gaming Device, which is made to be used in brick and mortar casinos, though it is likely that an online version will be available soon.

How it works is this: Casinos purchase a machine, called Gameplan, and install the software for that device on their gambling machines. Players purchase the Responsible Gaming Device, which can be plugged into the casino’s machines. That Device identifies the gambler and all of the conditions that have been selected.

The machine allows the player to select certain limits, whether it’s a maximum amount of losses during a time period, a certain amount of money wagered, or any other similar limit and is notified when those limits are met. The device then locks the player out and no more bets can be made. If necessary, the player can also use the device to exclude themselves entirely, which is basically a self-blacklisting.

Though this would be easy to incorporate into machines like slots and video poker, I don’t know how it could be used, if it can, for table games like blackjack. For that reason, I think the software is better suited for online casinos. That way it could be applied to every game and it could refuse to let the player make a deposit or play any games once the limit is met.

Ideally, everything that this machine accomplishes would be done by the gamblers without any help. Setting your own limits before you start playing is wise and it’s the easiest way to make sure you don’t spend too much. However, for people who have a problem with compulsive gambling, this machine is a great idea and will eventually help a lot of people. I, for one, am excited about it.