I have been an avid gambler since I was fourteen years old.. Maybe the fact that I was born in Las Vegas is why I have gambling in my blood. As a big fan of Las Vegas style games, I would go to the racetrack and bet on the horses and to Las Vegas to gamble before I was eighteen years old. When I was eighteen years old, which is the legal age to gamble in California, I would visit the Indian reservations here in San Diego and play blackjack. The only drawback was that it cost $.50 per hand to play, which is how the Indian tribes made their money. I would go out there about once a week-sometimes once every two weeks-and play. I would win money there about one out of every three timesÖ.which kept me coming back for more action.
I was surfing the web one day back in í96 when I came across an enticing banner ad for Intercasino.com that promised lots of winners and big cash payoffs in its Las Vegas style casino. Intrigued, I clicked the banner which brought me to their website. Fueled by my passion for Las Vegas games, this is when my whole Internet gambling addiction began. Iíll have to admit that gambling for real money from the luxury and comfort of my own home was quite an exhilarating rush. The first time I gambled online I won $400. I thought to myself, "I just made $400 in two hours and didnít even have to leave the house to do it! How cool!" In the months to follow, I would only allocate $100 a month for gambling after making my payment to my one-and-only credit card company at the time. For the next 12 months I only won money about 30% of the time and quit playing for many months to follow.
In the early months of 1999 my father, aware of my inability to obtain a credit card due to a public tax lien, gave me his credit card to use which had a $5000 credit line on it. He only authorized me to use the card for emergencies only. Now Iím thinking to myself, "Hereís a grand opportunity for me to make some big bucks for myself!" Being the passionate gambler that I am, was soon beckoned by my computer to gamble with the credit card. Itís as if the computer was calling me to go to it and play blackjackÖ..It all went downhill from this point on. I have control of my gambling behavior, but the presence of gambling on the Internet made it uncontrollable. It was just too easy to do, and I couldnít stop. It got so bad that when I had my friends over, I would sometimes hope that they would leave soon so I could indulge myself in this masochistic behavior in privacy once again.
I would deposit $200 on my credit card, play it and lose it. $100, play it and lose it. Even when I was up about $500 my bets would increase in size to try to win back what I was down. The very last thing I wanted to happen was to have my dad find out what I was doing with his credit card, so I changed the billing address to my house in San Diego instead of his. You see, the way these casinos work is they credit your credit card your winnings to balance out the debits. The only time they would mail someone a check would be if they deposited $100 and won money beyond their initial deposit, for they credit the card just the amount of the initial deposit and send a check for the rest. The more money I lost the more chips I would buy on the credit card to try to win it back. I was chasing my lossesÖ.big time! Well, one thing led to another and within a period of just three weeks I had maxed out my fatherís $5000 credit card. I was so distraught and scared that he would flip his lid when he found out that I thought about suicide as an escape route. I was severely depressed, nervous, and suicidal.
When the "shit hit the fan" and my dad found out, I just had to write him a letter explaining everything that happened to try to save myself from his wrath. Iím lucky to have such a great father with a big heart who understands that gambling is a serious disease and addiction. He was mad, but very understanding and forgiving. He was also able to get the money back that I lost since it was his card and not mine. Lucky for me.
For people out there like myself who have a gambling problem, Internet gambling is dangerous. Itís too easy to gamble online from the comfort of your own home since all you need is a credit card, a computer, and Internet access. Like I said, the convenience of online gambling brought out an uncontrollable animal in me. I didnít know when to stop. I am not obsessive compulsive by any means, but the Internet combined with my passion for gambling made my behavior uncontrollable. Iím sure there are thousands of people in the world who are gambling online with money they canít afford to lose and cannot stop. Many people have or are losing tens of thousands of dollars online and are either severely depressed or suicidal as a result. I am here today to tell my story in hope that Congress will pass a bill making it illegal to gamble on the Internet. Not too long ago, President Bill Clinton was trying to pass a law making it illegal to gamble money over telephone lines. This bill was vetoed with the introduction of DSL and other high speed Internet access companies during this "dot.com" explosion. This could save the lives of thousands of gamblers worldwide- even teenagers. This is a serious problem in America today and is being completely ignored. Behind the glitter and glamour of these Internet casinos lies pain, depression, regret, even suicidal thoughts. Gambling is a serious disease that, combined with the Internetís easy accessability, can bring financial ruin to the homes of thousands of people worldwide -- even tragedy.