2014 | Week of December 8 – #1075
“Her traveling companion sensed that Diana Abelt had a gambling problem. Whenever they took a drive to northern Wisconsin for the weekend, Diana insisted on stopping at a casino to play the slot machines. The companion tried taking different routes to help her avoid temptation. But it was of no use: no matter where they turned, it seemed another casino would pop up. And each time, Abelt sank deeper and deeper into compulsive addiction. ‘In my sick mind, God wanted me to gamble,’ the 66-year-old Racine-area resident recalled during an…interview. ‘Because there was always a casino there.’”
The true story I’ve just related was reported on the Wausau Daily Herald website, on February 28 of this year. In the accompanying video, Diana, sitting with her husband Larry, says she originally went to a casino in Las Vegas where she spent $20 on the slots and hit a $25,000 jackpot. She says the feeling was “euphoric—almost obscene.”
As Diana tells the story, to feed her growing habit in Wisconsin, especially trying to recoup the $25,000 she had won and lost within one month, she used to have to convince her husband to take her up north. But when the casino opened in Milwaukee in 1991, gambling became infinitely easier for her. She just headed to the casino whenever she had to urge to go. Pretty soon, it was an every-day trip.
Eventually, Diana was caught stealing money from a dry-cleaning and laundry business where she worked. Her marriage suffered greatly when her husband eventually found out that she had drained their finances. At one time their phones and electricity were cut off because the bills weren’t paid. Larry told her he was done. Diana feared a divorce. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Diana began getting help for her compulsive gambling and together the couple sought marriage counseling.
Larry was obviously not yet over the damage his wife’s gambling had done to their family. And even though his wife is now 13 years clean, he still doesn’t completely trust her.
Yes, this is just one story. But I guarantee you it could be repeated thousands of times in our state. We have over 20 casinos already. No Wisconsin resident is over a two-hour drive from a casino. It’s not like we don’t have plenty of opportunities for people to gamble. Research shows that problem gambling increases when a casino is in close proximity to someone.
Wisconsin doesn’t need another casino, especially a first-of-its-kind off-reservation casino like the one the Menominee Tribe wants in Kenosha. There’s no reason whatsoever for Governor Walker to approve this casino. And yet, the Governor seems to be very much ok with protracting the process and delaying the decision and taking every day of the extension the federal government has granted him.
In a recent update, the Governor indicated that the state may be on the hook for any losses the Potowatomi tribe might suffer from the Kenosha casino being open. That’s thanks to an agreement Governor Doyle signed with the tribes early in his administration. In spite of that admission, Governor Walker still isn’t giving any clear message that he will not approve this casino.
And all of this is in spite of the fact that Governor Walker promised in 2011 that he wouldn’t approve a new casino in our state unless three very clear, very sound, criteria were met: community approval, all 11 tribes agreeing to the new casino and no net increase in gaming in our state. The governor and his administration haven’t mentioned those criteria in nearly a year; it’s as if they never existed. But they do. And they’re good criteria. And only one of the three has been met—community approval.
What we know is that any perceived short-term benefit will be more than offset by serious long-term harm because gambling hurts Wisconsin’s best resource—her families. We don’t need more heart-wrenching stories like Diana and Larry Abelt’s. We don’t need another record-breaking year of calls to Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling’s Help Line. We need the Governor to just say no.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”