Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bet Your Life

I was talking to my son's mother on the phone in 2009. I was in California. She drives from Madison Wisconsin to Eau Claire Wisconsin regularly. She said to me, "Do you know you are on a billboard for a casino?"  I answered, "no." I asked her to take a picture of it.

Similar angle to simulate similarity...

I was in the Ho Chunk Casino in 2008 when they were shooting advertising spots. I remember looking up from the 3 card poker table and seeing them shooting me. They were just getting started, and probably just making tests. As a video guy myself it seemed quite normal. This was no small effort, they were using a large professional camera on a dolly. I was wearing a brown T shirt and a blue cap with no ads on the cap. Plain.

Everything about this ad was the angle they shot me from. The photoshop additions to this are larger stack of chips, brown tone and reddish orange.... Two color is cheaper than four color... and they gave me way more muscle.

Later that evening the models showed up. A male and female. They posed them everywhere playing cards and dice. I watched from my poker table.

The male model did not look like me and I am 100% convinced they used the test shot in this ad and not what they shot with him. Someone suggested I should file a suit and get paid, so I did. My luck I went to a law firm that had a conflict of interest since they worked for the Ho Chunk tribe. I made the mistake of taking their suggestion for a lawyer. I got played.

I was never much of a gambler until about 2006 when I had a streak that lasted about two years. I thought I was the smartest guy in the casinos. After a while I began to suspect that my decade of being stalked had turned to Truman show type fun at my expense. I was being allowed to win quite often. There are other things in play that I may touch on in my next film but I will leave out for now.

I definitely became a compulsive gambler. I would spend 16 hours a day gambling. I would be nautious from the oxygen, whirling lights and sounds. I won 3000 one day, 9000 another day, 2000 another day and 1000 probably 30 times.

When my luck or Truman show enablers stopped aiding me, I lost 5000 on 3 different days and a few other big day losses. Nothing is more depressing and debilitating than the depression that follows that. I self excluded myself off the premises of both Ho Chunk nation casinos in Wisconsin and stayed away for a year. Then the compulsion lured me back in. They are supposed to stop you but they didn't.

I wrote this as a result. I thought this would make a good blog posting. Of course I understand the enter at your own risk responsibility to our choices but the laws that govern casinos do ask the casino to assist people who confess to being compulsive, the way a bar has to cut off an alcoholic.

As you read this you may have little sympathy for a 40 something compulsive gambler but apply this to the 70 or 80 something who is losing their homes. Does a casino have any moral obligation not to take the homes and bank holdings of senior citizens who may not be mentally able to make the right decisions?

Ding there goes lunch....ding there goes dinner...ding there goes groceries....ding there goes my new dentures... ding there goes health and life insurance payment.... ding there goes the kids inheritance.... ding there goes the boob job I wanted... um...for her.... and me..... hey..... I deserve something after 50 years working... ding there goes retirement.... ding going to need to get a job.... ding.... honey save 50 cents for a newspaper.... ding I am going to get a free cup of thousand dollar coffee... fuckin' Bugsy Seigel... Jew Bastard...

My name is Geno and I am a compulsive gambler. Most have no idea how compelling this urge is, this obsessive compulsive behavior…It is said 5% of gamblers are like me…An accountant friend of mine recently confided to me how many of her clients have re-mortgaged their homes and lost everything they were to leave to their children. A recent Boston Legal on NBC sued a casino over a compulsive gamblers losses and won by scaring the casino with divulging some of their dirty little secrets, the stuff that goes on behind those hundreds of video cameras in the operations room. They suggested the addition of synthetic pheromones to the air circulation to promote further gambling…If this is true it’s more than a dirty little secret it is criminal on the level of Hitler Eugenics experiments in mind control…

Other questions I have is--is it all just chance, preprogrammed machines designed to pay off at certain mathematic intervals or does the casino have the ability to over ride these machines at anytime and say let a VIP win big or someone they dislike lose big…If so…all bets are off…It is criminal top to bottom.

If a given machine is programmed to win 5% off the top at all times, that would be fair. The losses are then shared by the chance and thrill of being the lucky one to tap into that particular jackpot. But if there is the ability for a casino to override that programming at will, then any sane logical and fair minded consumer should boycott the gaming industry fully and immediately.

However that is not how it works for the compulsive gambling addict. I know full well how risky gambling is and yet I continue to lose every dime I have trying to win back what I lost. Personally I think that is the disorder in my mind…because I have won in the past my brain says I can win back the much larger percentages I have lost…Did synthetic pheromones play a part? Do the sounds and low frequency addition of subliminal sounds aid this addiction…help to fuel it?

As a former athlete I remember wanting to win at baseball or football or basketball so badly I would push myself to the limit for the thrill of victory. I remember how badly I felt when I lost. Is this just a particular characteristic of  some athletes…like children on Christmas morning our minds pumping with adrenalin seeking to make the day last forever?

I plan my money before I get it, all the things I want to buy, fix or the debts I want to make good on. Then when the money is in my hand the compulsion takes over…If I double my money I can do all those things and more. The next thing I know  I’m pressing the video game button like a monkey on crack sometimes for 12 hours as I watch my apartment rental money become six pack money and relegate me to sleeping in my car in 10 below weather in Wisconsin…Freewill right?

But what responsibility does a casino have to not take advantage of those who seem to have a behavioral disorder such as obsessive compulsive  gambling?

Initially, I would say none. If people voluntarily plug a machine with their hard earned cash then it is an enter at your own risk situation. You get what you deserve, lucky or unlucky.

And that would be the end of the story if it weren’t for the extenuating factors, some of which I mentioned above…Subliminal messages in the sound and the possibility they engage in selective winning…giving new customers the thrill of winning big and the regulars just enough to keep them coming back. And to what degree do casinos use face recognition software to identify the new from the regulars, the blacklisted from the average joe?

Hundreds of cameras seeing just about everything, security teams watching screens and guarding the floors well aware of almost every detail…all to protect the profits of their establishment…how likely is it they don’t come to know their regulars and even discuss them, in a sort of conspiratorial fashion to reward them, punish them, study their habits and behaviors.

If someone were to stand back and look at the big picture of cash money, it is known that there is way more dollars in circulation than there is value behind those dollars. Do casinos do the Federal Reserve a private banking institution a great service by vacuuming up much of that perceived wealth when it really has less and less value each passing year?

And one would also wonder when looking at the bigger picture whether scenes from the Godfather/Scorcese  movies where organized crime seem to operate with grand audacity against the individual,  those films are practically documentaries showing a gullible public the truth of what is really behind the curtain.

Congressman and Senators in the pocket of organized crime is it possible they legislate in favor of the gaming industries?

Which brings about the question of Indian Casinos…Tribal Gaming is often lawfully set up as a sovereign institution…separate from state and federal laws and policed only by tribal councils who in all likelihood will rule in their own best interest given a grievance from patrons, employees or other petitioners.

I can imagine the organized crime discussion that came up with the idea of Indian reservations being given casinos…

“Yo Tony, how can we get a monopoly on casinos, not be subject to state or federal law, not be bound by any mandated payout percentages, and run our little racket like it’s our own country with our own laws and juries?

“Well boss, people feel sorry for Indians…we can say it’s because they have been trampled on for hundreds of years and the money is to help them build schools…”

“That’s good…by doing that we give them a cut and take the profit out the backdoor…set up a meeting with Senator Yessir…”

Who is so naïve as to doubt this sort of corruption is rampant in the gaming industry?

This brings me back to my own obsessive compulsive gambling problem…I have won and lost huge amounts of money…Mostly lost…by a wide margin…

One day while at a Madison Wisconsin Indian Casino I lost 4300 dollars in one day…knees shaking, face white…I approached the security desk and asked for a self exclusion form. Filling out the paperwork they took my picture, copied my ID, told me I would be arrested for trespassing if I showed up on their property again and then escorted me to my car by their security guard who watched me leave the parking lot,

Another time in an Indian Casino in Baraboo Wisconsin I lost 2500 in one night and again visited the security office to self exclude myself…

I stayed away for many months but soon the idea of gambling was whispering in my ear. And I didn’t find new casinos but rather returned to the scene of the crime and gambled away an additional 7000 over the course of 5 visits over a few weeks...never once did security approach me and say I was trespassing…I find it hard to believe they did not recognize me with all those cameras and many employees recognizing me from the past.

Did they look the other way to be nice to me or nice to themselves? What good is this self exclusion policy (statute?) if it isn’t enforced to help the addict to help themselves by being blocked…barred from the premises…barred because that individual identified his horror and humbly pleaded for help, to request that the Casino not take advantage of his compulsion in the future…

And if this grievance is legitimate, a true violation of guidelines set up to police the gaming industry how is it fair to give the tribe themselves jurisdiction over what is plainly a violation of our Bill of Rights and Constitution…the right to a jury by our peers and not exclusively their own…

I have seen where similar court cases are being heard around the world and many judges are ruling against petitioners who self excluded only to end up back at the scene of the crime compulsively destroying their lives even further. A reasonable jury would recognize that the self exclusion is a contract between the casino and the individual to protect one another in the future and that breaking the contract is grounds for a civil action to be addressed…In this case someone who has declared themselves mentally unfit to police his own actions has asked the casino to please not take his money in the future.

In the case of the casino, state and federal laws have asked the casino to provide self exclusion policies in place to prevent compulsive gamblers from ruin.

Certainly both parties share a certain level of responsibility but one is the sober dominant party not unlike an adult to a child in power, one who has benefited greatly while the other is reduced to a humbled state of destitution…why does one get rewarded for breach of contract while the other punished.

If I were a law firm suing a casino on behalf of a self exclusion grievance petitioner I would in discovery subpoena the video footage from the dates in question and review the actions of the said gambler from beginning to end. I would have the jury review the evidence and ask themselves whether the person in question was displaying rational behavior by pumping hundreds and thousands of dollars into the machines and then leaving the premises broke and destitute.

I would ask the jury if society had a duty to help those with mental disorders to not be taken advantage of by predatory practices. And to take in to account that the self exclusion agreement was a cry for help and that a country who protected Goliath while kicking David to the curb was not a country whose laws were ultimately fair for the average citizen in the long run or the bigger picture. This scenario is not unlike the laws governing usury, predatory lending practices that have been outlawed several times through out history…a law attempting to protect the average individual from disappearing under an avalanche of debt.

I would ask that jury to consider whether an 80 year old woman had the faculties to manage her estate and to rationally cope with the overwhelming influence of such excitement, sounds, colors, subliminal messages and possibly even something in the air…

I would ask them what would the devil do and ask the jury to return with a verdict that was just the opposite…Freewill isn’t always freewill…sometimes it’s an induced state of temporary insanity.

In a civil matter it would be best to punish the casino to ensure that they tried much harder to honor their self exclusion policies in that the person in the form most likely just handed thousands of dollars over to them, getting nothing in return but destitution and that the realization of that temporary insanity was a result they did not want to repeat in the future and didn’t trust themselves to honor.

To me it is obvious what message needs to be sent to the gaming industry.

 And what should happen to self exclusion obsessive compulsive gamblers who trespass violating the agreement in the future? They should be arrested just as the policy states and be escorted to jail where they can post a 500 bail and go home. It is money best served as a reminder that they have a problem and not another dollar in the pocket of a gaming industry whose shiny whirling excitement is all flash and no morality.


I have not gambled for 20 months but I think about it often. I think it is likely I will eventually repeat this compulsive cycle again in the future. There is no adrenalin high like it, other than skydiving which I did long ago and have no intention of ever doing again. That you can bet on.

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