Letter to the players continued

 The reason I began researching these machines was because for years nothing I tried ended my constant and overwhelming urges to go play them. Unlike many of my fellow citizens, I survived my addiction, but only because I discovered what was causing it during my research. Because of the serious nature of the Vlt and Slot machine addiction, I’ll be very straight with you. If you play these machines on a regular basis, you will become addicted, pure and simple. Not because you are weak, irresponsible, lack control, or you have a predisposition to an addictive behavior. You will become addicted because you are playing the machines exactly as they were intended to be played, which is on a regular basis. Take it from a person who experienced this addiction firsthand and who has since helped others overcome theirs, this addiction is extremely dangerous and it may well cost you your life.

Please bear with me while I share some of what I learned the hard way. A study funded by the AGLC in 2011 reveals that an average of 74% of all money made from these machines comes from the addicted players, who by the way are all ‘regular players’. Just think about it, without regular players, the Vlt and Slot machine business would not be sustainable. So why would anyone who benefits from the massive amount of money the regular players lose in these machines, have their backs or care to warn them about the highly addictive properties of these fundraisers? Why would they ever want to stop the best gravy train that’s ever existed if they can get away with it? Or want to inform themselves about why such a high percentage of players get addicted and how many families and lives are destroyed by them? 

As important, why would the counselors at the treatment programs, or the members of the research teams tell us the truth about the machine addiction when most of them wouldn’t even have a job without the money lost by the addicted players who go to them for help or who depend on them for research? Talk about a classic example of the fox looking after the chicken coop. Why would charity groups admit their fundraisers are dangerously addictive when they’d have to find other ways of making up the $60-$80,000 they make in one weekend working a casino? Imagine how many boxes of chocolate they would have to sell and how many months it would take for them to raise that kind of money.

But to be fair, I’ve discovered that most, if not all Vlt and Slot machine owners, who are in actuality the citizens of each province through their governments, don’t know anything about them except what they were told before these were brought into our communities as ‘entertaining fundraisers’. I’ve tried my best to tell some of them what I discovered in my research but it seems they either don’t care or don’t really want to know. Their lack of compassion bothered me for a long time and the only thing I could figure out is if they really hear what I have to say, they’d have a moral choice to make. Or maybe they forget that as the owners of these machines, they are the ones with the power to end the suffering and suicides linked to their fundraisers and not the steward they put in place to take care of their gambling business. 

You see, if people just go play the machines once or twice a year, like many of us did years ago when in Las Vegas, today’s gambling machines would not get a chance to do what they were expertly designed to do, which is for ‘player extinction’ as Dr. Natasha Schull explains in her book titled Addiction by Design. There’s a reason these machines are known throughout the world as the ‘crack cocaine’ of all gambling. The fact is the more often you play the machines, the sooner you get addicted to them.

Here’s how I see the progression of the Vlt and Slot machine addiction:

You go out for an evening with friends or your significant other to a place which has Vlts or slot machines. If you are really unlucky, you win a fair size jackpot. I say unlucky because that’s one of the best ways to get a player to return to the machines. You have fun the first time so you return a couple weeks or months later. After all, you’ve never had a problem with gambling so why not.

After a few times, like most players who have become addicted, you notice that playing these machines is a great way to zone out from life’s realities. Maybe you’re having problems at home or at work, or you’re bored, going through a divorce or you just lost a loved one. Maybe you’re in between jobs, just retired or you just need a break from the kids. Or maybe, like when I began playing, it’s more fun to go play machines  than having to deal with hurt feelings and frustrations. 

For whatever reason, you end up playing the machines more often and before you know it, you lie or make excuses so you can go even more often, all the while telling yourself you can quit playing them anytime you want. By this time in the progression, the programs hidden inside the machines have had a chance to do what they were designed to do with you being none the wiser. Your behavior is quickly changing to one of addicts and within no time, you don’t recognize the person you see in the mirror. 

When you finally wake up from this nightmare and admit to yourself that you’re addicted, you realize you can’t quit playing the machine no matter how sincerely and diligently you try. You decide to go for help. You attend GA meetings and or the government’s treatment programs and even try private counseling but no matter what you try, you still can’t stay away from the machines. The more you play, the more money you lose and the sooner you return to get some of it back and the more you hate yourself. The more you hate yourself, the more depressed you become and the sooner you get back to the machines. 

This cycle of insanity continues until your overwhelming guilt and shame won’t let you sleep at night and you live with constant anxiety in fear that your family, friends or co-workers will discover the pathetic addict you’ve become. Each morning, you put on a fake smile and face the world the best way you know how but by then you’ve begun to have thoughts of killing yourself as: 

- the only way to end your addiction

- OR you would rather die than tell your family how much money you’ve lost or the shameful things you’ve done to feed your addiction

- OR to protect your loved ones from further financial losses 

- OR all of the above

You may even be thinking of ways to make your suicide look like an accident so your family can collect insurance to at least make up some of the money you lost.

If that’s the stage you’re at my friend, I want you to know there is hope, even if you’re convinced there’s none. I ended my addiction to these machines and I believe you can too.  I discovered that ending this type of addiction is not about forcing yourself to stay away from the machines, or repeatedly proclaiming that you’re an addict who has  a disease which can’t be cured, only controlled. I ended my addiction by educating myself. I truly believe that if you keep informing yourself about the true nature of these machines as much, and as often as you can, you too can find peace. What really helps during the part of EGMS's Program called ‘Machine Awareness’, is if you stay in touch with other survivors of these machines, share your story as an addict with them and with a loved one when you’re ready, and then help other addicts to understand that it is not them who are sick but rather the machines that are making them sick.

A good place to start educating yourself is by reading some, or all of the information written on this website, including the research papers or studies whose titles are listed on the RESEARCH page. The more you educate yourself about the Vlts and slot machines, the sooner you’ll notice that your constant and overpowering urges to go play them are losing their power over you. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself sitting at a machine during this ‘education period’ since that’s been a normal occurrence for most of the players I’ve helped since my own healing process. Knowingly, or unknowingly pretending that you don’t know something you just learned, only works for so long. The fact is, you can’t un-know what you know. Soon though, if you stay committed to educating yourself, almost like magic you’ll find that you no longer have to fight with your urges to go play machines because they will no longer be there. Only then can you start dealing with the grief and anger you will experience after you realize that the hellish experience you went through and all the money you lost, could have been prevented had you been warned about the true nature of the machines which our government utilizes as entertaining fundraisers.

I have one more thing I’d like to share. If, once your addiction to Vlts or Slot machines is ended, you don’t address and heal the reason(s) why you began playing these machines on a regular basis in the first place, you will simply find another way to escape those same realities in your life. 

If, or when, you are ready to stop the cycle of insanity you’ve been trapped in, drop us a line and we will send you some information about the EGMS Awareness, Healing and Support Program.