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Kevin Smith

Hope for Problem Gamblers

9 May 2001

Online gaming has plenty of dark sides. Anna Hope has seen the darkest of those and has managed to survive.

"I can laugh today, but believe me, I didn’t laugh for the last year or so," she said.

Shady operators and underground sites are just the tip of the iceberg. Industry insiders and operators have long struggled with players who get addicted to what is seen as entertainment.

Sunny Casinos, a company that operates online casinos, is doing its part in helping to fight the problem of addictive gamblers by putting Hope, a recovering addict, to work at its casinos.

Sunny has introduced Hope (her real name is being protected) to users of its five casinos. Hope will be conducting online forums for problem gamblers along with publishing a newsletter and hosting a hotline.

She will seek out, advise and counsel players who appear to have a gambling addiction, something that nearly destroyed her family.

Until now it has been left to the individual to seek help. The addicted gambler often denies having a problem and is therefore unlikely or embarrassed to seek such help at organizations like Gamblers Anonymous.

Sunny Chairman Dr. Waldo Waldron-Ramsay says bringing Hope on board is an important step for helping addicted gamblers.

"Sunny Casinos is an important part of the Sunny Group which is primarily a company involved in educational products," Waldron-Ramsey said. "We believe casino gambling can be beneficial when used for recreation and entertainment. We were one of the first casinos on the Internet and have learned the risk of bringing gambling into people's homes. Sunny Casinos is responsible and wants to provide entertainment to customers not ruin them. Anna Hope will assist us in controlling the experience and making it a fun and safe one."

It started four years ago when Hope and her husband started taking monthly trips to some new casinos that had been introduced in her area. She then saw an advertisement for an online casino in a newspaper she was reading. She went to check the site out and quickly become a fan.

"It was easy to do, and I was winning," she said. "I started liking it more and more. Then it became an obsession."

Then the problem started to get out of hand.

"Gambling almost cost me my life a couple of times and I lost my home," Hope said. "My husband is trying to get it back right now, but who knows."

It was at one of her darkest times when Hope sent out a plea to the casino that has changed her life forever.

"I was one of the 'good customers' of Casino Fortune," she said. "When I decided to quit I sent them a couple of tragic and sad e-mails. I expressed to them my finals, and it got to someone's heart there."

Initially Hope was shocked that personnel with the casino wanted to follow up with her regarding her problem, but it was rare for them to get feedback from a problem gambler.

"I wondered what I had done when they said they wanted to talk to me," she said. "They wanted to help me, but only if I would help other people. They hate to make profits off of people who are suffering the way I was. They usually just never hear from those people; they close their accounts and move on to another one. They just don't quit."

Gamblers Anonymous is the most recognized tool for helping problem gamblers, but Hope doesn't sing praises for GA.

"It is almost like talking to the wall," she said. "You talk, you talk, but you don't get any feedback. If someone comes with a problem, they go home still with that problem."

Hope's efforts have already been able to save the life of one problem gambler.

A 27-year-old called Hope one day for help. She was a problem gambler and was calling from the inside of a car. The young woman had a gun in her hand and was ready to take her own life, but after two hours of talk with Hope the situation was adverted.

"She was inside and ready to do it," she said. "It took me a while, but I knew exactly what she was going through. A crisis line doesn't know what a gambler goes through."

Hope admits that if a similar service to what she if offering gamblers was available for her she probably wouldn't have paid any attention to it. But once she realized she had a problem, she would have loved to have had a shoulder to lean on.

"At the end, yes, I wish I had something like this, but during, no," she said. "During it you are blind, but once you realize you have a problem there is really no one to talk to about it."

Hope is providing addicted gamblers with help 24 hours a day.

"It is nice to have someone out there at 2 or 3 in the morning, or at 4 in the afternoon," she said. "When they made me the offer I couldn’t believe it, but I know there are others out there just like me who need help."

Many addicts, whether it's drugs, alcohol or other vices, need to distance themselves from what they were addicted to. Hope feels that her still being associated with the casinos has helped her recovery more than hurt it.

"This has made me stronger than ever," she said. "I am not against the casinos and all of that, but I am eager to help others."

Hope will be at all of Sunny’s casinos,,, and Customers with gambling problems will be encouraged to email her personally at

Sunny's development team is busy finishing a software product to assist Hope and Sunny to recognize the signs of a compulsive gambler. Sunny intends to alert persons that appear to have dangerous gambling patterns. With such software in place gaming on the Internet will be safer.

In the end though, Hope is just grateful to get a second chance in life.

"I believe in miracles, and this was a miracle," she said.

Hope for Problem Gamblers is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith