The topic of gambling and gambling addiction is a complicated one, and around the world governments and communities are struggling with how to address and treat those whom it affects.
Sandra A. Adell, a published US author and PhD literature professor in the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, knows this First Hand. She has been a gambling addict and lived to tell of the habit that nearly ruined her life and academic career and broke up her family between 2005 and 2009.
Today she is also an actor and commercial print model.
Adell was the guest speaker at the Fourth Edition of the Uganda International Writers Conference in Kampala a fortnight ago. She recalled her life story in the session, Writing Our Stories: Memoir Writing and Self-Care. Her memoir, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen, published in 2010, is 176-paged book of how a highly educated black woman descended into the depths of an addiction to slot machines and lived to tell the story.
Published by EugeniaBooks, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen offers an intimate look into compulsive casino gambling and the impact the casino industry is having on vulnerable communities, especially poor and working class people, the disabled, communities of colour, and women — the fastest growing population of problem gamblers in the United States.
Adell’s narrative of gambling and loss unfolds against her history as an unwed and uneducated teen mother from Detroit who beat the odds and went on to earn a PhD in literature and teach in a major university in the US.
“Today, I am the only black woman in the US speaking about the dangers of addiction to casino gambling at public forums and broadcast houses. I keep to the emotional feelings I went through in my memoir. I was raped at the age of 14 by a 24-year-old man. I ran away from home when my parents suggested prosecuting him for statutory rape,” Adell said.
It all started when she set out to research and expose the dark side of the casino industry in the US as part of her academic research work. It involved visiting casinos and playing as a gambler.
Adell says that she got hooked to gambling when she won $1,100 at her first attempt at the slot machines. “The casino environment is very bizarre. There are no windows or clocks. The idea is to keep you focused on the machines.”
“With time, my behaviour began to change and I started acting on impulse. Sometimes, I would pretend that I was going to the casino for research. I kept a journal of how much I spent each day. I separated the gambling money from other money. I would even wake up in the middle of the night to go to the casino and started drinking more, and one day I passed out in the parking lot. I was arrested and spent a night in a police cell. I was researching the casino world and ended up being addicted. I felt ashamed and dirty,” Adell recalls.
She says she was mocked for not being a fit mother when she became pregnant with her second child as a single mother. She was even locked up in a juvenile home and her family, including her mother, asked her give up her three children for adoption.
“I refused and managed to see all my children through college. The odds were stacked against us and some people said I would not make it in life. But I am glad that I didn’t give my children away for adoption. I raised them as a single young black woman. Today, I have three grandchildren and three great grandchildren,” she said.