January 18, 1976
Gambling One mansge, anotherman's/i
Last year Dale thought he
knew the answer to his
problem: suicide., Then he
joined Gamblers Anonymous.
Sin City. Gaud and Glitter.
But this observer found there
was more to Las Vegas
than loose money
By BILL TURQUE
"1 HEARD THE DOOR lock behind
me, and I knew that I was in
big trouble," Dale C. recounted in
his suburban Detroit apartment.
"There was Jack and this other
guy that I had never seen before.
He had a hammer in one hand
and a gun in the other. They took
me into a back room and put me
in a crouched position and he fired
the gun into the floor."
Jack, an owner of a "schlock
plumbing repairplace" in north-
west Detroit, was Dale's creditor.
Dale owed him $9,000.
Before this harrowing incident,
Dale, not- his real name, gambled
compulsively for 23 of his 32 years.
From his first roulette game at age
nine to his last role of the dice in
Las Vegas a year ago, Dale fig-
ures to have placed a bet in some
form during five out of every seven
days of his life. Horses, football,
baseball, or poker, gambling was
an integral, irreplaceable element
of his exstence, much like liquor
for an alcoholic or' food for a
When Dale was iucky, he was very
lucky. When times were hard, they
were rock hard. He places his losses
over the years at "well in excess"
of a million dollars.
LAST YEAR, however, Dale looked
as if he had run his luck into
the ground. He was $28,000 in debt.
His wife received a threatening
phone call from his most impatient
creditor. The police were also har-
rassing him about the disappear-
ance of several thousand dollars in
American Express checks from his
A desperate trip to Las Vegas only
increased his losses ("You can nev-
er win when you're pressing," he
said.). Returning to Detroit, he at-
tempted to remove himself from
the scene with 15 barbiturates and
a bottle of Cutty Sark Dale was
going down for the count.
Last February 11, with some coax-
ing from his wife, Dale walked into
his first meeting of Gambler's An-
onymous (GA) in the basement of
a church near his home. It was on
that night, he said, that his life
"started to make some sense."'
His appearance is improbable for
one self-described as "at one time
the most dynamic gambler in De-
troit." A pastel colored shirt and
flared bluejeans do not fare well
over a stocky frame that is los-
ing a battle against an excess 20
pounds. Disheveled brown hair and
a pallid complexion belie a recent
Florida vacation. He looked burned
A mortar fragment wound he re-
cei.ved in Vietnam ten years ago
severed a nerve and restricts the
use of his arms, and he can write
with -his right hand only with great
difficulty. The nerve damage has
resulted in-slightly uncontroled mo-
D..I M . __. _1 _~~i _ u .
tions iii his hands and
can hardly imagine him
ing cards, or throwing
dice in a
By RICH LERNER
VUT AT 16, he was already do-
ing between $500 and $1,000
rth of "action" every week
rough bookies and poker. That
same year, he won $1,600 at a To-
ledo race track only to have it
evaporate four days later through
more bets on baseball and horses.
He was not alone either. Some of
his childhood friends were just as
"At least one is dead because of
gambling," Dale said. "We used to
sit on the porch and bet on what
color the next passing car would
be. I know a guy who would bet
you on whether or not it rained
Dale enjoyed a materially com-
fortable childhood in an affluent
Detroit suburb. He remembers his
parents as being very preoccupied
with a burgeoning retail business.
His father was and still is an avid
gambler, though not to the same
degree as his son. What bets Dale
could not cover with his own earn-
ings from poker an bowling, he
made up for by stea ing from his
father, starting at age 13 by slip-
ping into his wallet for ten dol-
lars at a time. His best guess is
that he has taken $125,000 from
. his father.
GA, according to its official his-
tory, owes its beginning to a chance
encounter between two Los Angeles
gamblers in January, 1957. Their
association matured into a fellow-
ship of nearly 5,000 members. But
it is only a handful. According to
GA, there are six million people in
the U.S. who have serious trouble
controlling their gambling.
GA CONDUCTS its meetings in
the tradition of its counter-
part, Alcoholics Anonymous, with
members "giving testimony" and
sharing their experiences with oth-
ers. Obligations are minimal-only
a monthly contribution of 1 to 3
dollars and an honestddesire to
stop gambling. They made a be-
liever of Dale at his first meet-
ing, when they asked him their
traditional 20 questions (see box).
One need answer "yes" to only
seven to be considered a compul-
sive gambler. Dale answered "yes"
Hehasn't placed a bet for a year,
and the experience for him seems
to border on the mystical.
"Do you get high? Well, try to
remember your highest high, and
its nothing like how I feel now."
His year in GA has imbued him
with a missionary zeal that has
made him determined to reach oth-
er problem gamblers. He says if
he reaches just one, it will be
Las Vegas. Just like I pictured
Neon lights, big name stars and
armies of hungry slot machines
poised at full alert. The Big Time..
A real sensory over load for this
small-time hustler from West To-
I had the occasion to spend a
few days in the city of glitter dur-
ing this past Christmas vacation.
The first evening there I donned
an electric shirt and my, finest
string of beads, and slid my ones
between my twenties. Bowing my
legs and gritting my teeth in the
best Vegas Kid tradition, I swung
back the doors to my first casino.
But unlike the usual course of
events, I entered the confident, ar-
rogant pro - and left the budding
bug-eyed novice. If I learned one
thing from my first bout with Las
Vegas, it was that there's a lot
more to gambling than risking
money. The Sin City is steeped in
artifice and tacky savoir faire and
people don't take kindly to you if
you shatter their bubble of glitter-
FOCUS YOUR FANCY,. for in-
stance on the "cosmopolitan"
game of roulette. The "proper"
way to play roulette is in silence.
If one is forced to talk, any lan-
guage other than English is pre-
ferable, although, I must admit
my pig latin didn't go over too
well. Hopping onto a stool, I tossed
a five dollar bill in the direction
of "le croupier" and requested a
stack of 25 cent chips. In my best
James Bondian style, I scattered
an assortment of chips across the
board. -Mv birthday was the first
number, and with one throw my
stack of chips had doubled. The
system worked, alas, only briefly,
hbrause my spell of good fortune
fizzled like a wet match. 007 didn't
have to worry about me at the
roulette table any more.
Slot machines are just as much
a matter of jive as feeding coins
and pulling levers. And this year
Rich Lerner is a Daily Sport's night
editor and staff writer.
slot machiners had the extra bon-
us of playing the Bicentennial ma-
MOST OF THE slot players are
women. They stand expres-
sionless, stuffing the gaping slot
with coin after coin after coin,
pulling the lever with robot-like
"First you have to find one you
like," explained a Los Angeles
schoolteacher who has been flirt-
ing with the one-armed bandits
for over fifteen years. "Personally,
I go for the ones with four or five
"The first time you play a par-
ticular machine, always put in the
maximum amount allowable," she
said as she demonstrated her
smooth technique. "'Cause if you
hit the jackpot and you didn't put
in as much as you could have,
you'll kick yourself.
"After the first time you have
to go by feel, and when the ma-
chine pays, always give it a kiss or
a pat on the side. "They're Just like
my sixth-graders. They love atten-
I set out to tackle my first ma-
chine. Zilch. I decided that .even
though I was losing, I'd still give
it a pat on the side. That way it
would know I'm friendly. And then
I hit it-jackpot. Twelve nickels
spewed forth like manna. I gave
the machine its requisite love tap
and fed more coins into its hun
AFTER IT HAD eaten everything
short of my hand, I decided
to-ask my schoolteacher friend for
additional advice. "Use both hands
to put in the money," she suggest-
ed. A common mistake for a rookie.
But, not once, did the machine
reciprocate my generosity. Must
have been constipated.
I decided to abandon the one-
armed bandits. I'd probably be aw-
ful with six-graders, too.
I figured the crap table would
be one place where I could loosen
my tie and my tongue and let my-
self go a little. But even this row-
See LAS VEGAS, Page 5
--Photos by Las Vegas News Bureau
Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven
of these questions.
1. Do you lose time from work due to gambling?
2. Is gambling making.your home life unhappy?
3. Is gambling affecting your reputation?
4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
5. Do you ever gamble to get money with which to pay
debts or to otherwise solve financial difficulties?
6. Does gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or
7. After losing do you feel you must return as soon as
possible and win back. your losses?
8. A f/er a win do you have a strong urge to return and-
Do you often gamble until your last dollar is gone?
Do you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
[azve you ever sold any real or personal property to
12. Are you reluctant to use "gambling money" for normal
13. Does gambling make you careless- of the welfare of your
14. Do you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
15. Do you ever gamble to escape worry or trouble?
16. Hare you .crer committed, or considered committing,
an illegal act to finance gambling?
17. Does gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create
within you an r-ge to gamble?
19. Do you have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by
a few hours of gambling?
- I If t- i:---....1. -
Bill Turque is a Daily night editor 20. cHaie y O ever considered self destruction asC-esuirs of
and staff writer. See A MAN, Page 6 your gambling?