Wyoming is on schedule to have its first state lottery and some counselors believe the gamble can be addicting.
A Wind River Resident said his struggle with addiction involved gambling and Fremont County professionals share the effects it can have on people and crime in the community.
“Addiction is tuff, but when it comes down to it, the main thing is that it’s all about choices,” said Sonny Shoyo, an Eastern Shoshone Tribal member who struggled with addiction. “I have a choice to go drink, I have a choice to go gamble, I have a choice not to drink, and I have a choice not to gamble.”
Shoyo said gambling was not his biggest problem, but he used it as an outlet.
“When I was doing well in my sobriety I would see myself going to the casino, because I was not drinking,” said Shoyo.
Fremont Counseling Service Executive Director Jerry McAdams said gambling is cunning, baffling, and powerful.
“Gambling, it’s sort of like drugs and it’s sort of like alcohol,” said McAdams. “A lot of people can become addicted to the first use.”
McAdams said addition sneaks up on people and they do not realize its occurring. He said crime such as stealing is sometimes the result. Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett said money stolen in crimes such as forgeries, thefts, and embezzlements often go to gambling.
“A large number of those defendants and those convicted of those crimes, have indicated a large portion of the money they’ve stolen or received as fruits of their crime has gone to the casino to support a gambling debt,” said Bennett.
McAdams said the best way to bring attention to a gambling problem is to report a theft.
“It’s sometimes really hard for people to see the depth of their addiction without there being some pretty significant consequences that goes along with their behavior,” said McAdams.
Bennett is hopeful for programs in Fremont County.
“I know the casinos take gambling additions extremely serious and promote, as much as they can, responsible gambling,” said Bennett. "My office would support that as well."
Shoyo, now recovering, said he looks at gambling differently.
“I always had that stinking thinking about walking in and walking out just to get money to get the next drink,” said Shoyo.
He said now he limits himself. He will not take as much money to the casino and goes for entertainment. He attributes his recovery to the Eastern Shoshone Recovery Center.
“As the old saying goes, ‘it’s not the neurosis that creates the problem, it’s how I see the neurosis’,” said Shoyo.
McAdams said Fremont Counseling Service has seen only two people diagnosed with pathological gambling within the last year, but often people will not admit there is a problem. He said he is not aware of a fund currently set aside for a gambling addiction program in Fremont County, but they would consider it.