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Gambling addiction is no game!

About seven years ago I met a woman addicted to gambling. I was eighteen at the time and had heard of gambling being addictive but didn’t know much about it. After hearing my friend’s story of not being able to leave the casinos for days at a time even though her son was waiting at home, I understood a lot better. She was a cop and had almost lost her badge due to her addiction. She made it through rehab, though, and had been clean for two months.

Since then I’ve been more aware of the addictive qualities of gambling and how it can lure people in. Like alcohol, some people can enjoy it recreationally and not become addicted, while others need to go to extreme lengths to keep themselves away from temptation.

You can imagine my surprise, however, at what I experienced the other night while watching a movie about gambling addiction: Owning Mahowny, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It is based on the real-life former gambler Brian Molony, who embezzled more than $10 million from his employer. Since the movie was being shown on tv there were, of course, a zillion commercial breaks. Now, I’m pretty critical of most commercials, but I was floored at how many lottery ticket commercials were shown during that time. Even McDonald’s was advertising their annual “Monopoly” gimmick, where you can peel a tab off of your Coke or Big Mac to see if you’ve won.

Was I just more attuned to gambling-centered commercials than usual because I was watching a movie on gambling addiction, or did the tv network know exactly what kind of ads they were showing while screening a movie on gambling addiction?

I would like to think it was the former but deep down I think that the tv network knew that viewers would be thinking all about money, consciously or subconsciously, and I bet more people went out to buy lottery tickets the next day. And while here in Ontario, lottery commercials are stamped with small print about gambling responsibly alongside a link to, it isn’t exactly a highlighted portion of the advertisement.

Now I know that Lotto 647 and McDonald’s are businesses selling a product, which is the same reasoning behind any commercial, and in a way it’s the same as more restaurant ads being shown around dinnertime. But when companies advertise lottery tickets during movies on gambling addiction they’ve gone too far. I know that not everyone is an addict, but there is one in every crowd, and that addict has a family and friends that know addiction is far more serious than making more money for McDonald’s. It is someone’s world being flipped upside down, faster than any patty on a McGrill. Brian Molony has been clean for twenty-eight years, though it’s undoubtedly been a struggle for him day by day. What do you think he would say?