It finally sank in — I was in trouble.”
Rose says her gambling began when, at 17, she was running with a crowd that drank and played poker. By the time she left home at 22, she was gambling regularly.
“It really wasn’t part of my family’s culture, when we were in Italy or here in Canada. Sure, after Sunday dinner the men played cards while the women did the dishes, but that was it except for tombola Italian bingo at Christmas.”
Rose’s adult life was very different. “For 20 years, I gambled daily illegal poker games, betting on sports, buying lottery tickets and eventually slots.” She worked, but by 1998 her gambling was out of control. “I was calling in sick to play in poker tournaments.” She started borrowing money, used up a line of credit, then borrowed from “loan sharks”.
At the beginning, she was spending $100 a week gambling. At the end, she was spending more than $10,000 a week.
Then she stole from her employer. She was caught, found guilty and is now on probation and in counselling. Ironically, she’s doing her community service sentence at the shelter where she had taken Franny.
Rose believes she was good with money in her youth because she was taught to budget and plan her spending by her family when she started working at 14.
“At first, I used to keep my gambling money separate so I could pay my bills but, later, when the gambling money was gone, I started using my rent money, my food money and my gas money. Then I started selling things. I became somebody else.”
Although she’s unable to work full time because of her health, she’s putting those early planning skills to use again, working one day a week to pay back loans to family friends. So far, she’s paid back two $1,000 loans.
“It’s a little bit of weight off. You walk a little taller. Thanks to counselling, from where I am now, I can’t fathom who I was when I was gambling.”
COSTI’s Problem Gambling Service provides counselling in different languages for gamblers, as well as for family members and friends of the gambler. All services are free and confidential.
COSTI Immigrant Services: 416-244-7714 or 1-866-222-9993
If you are concerned about your gambling, or the gambling of someone you care about, there is free and confidential help.