Last Updated: Thursday - 09/30/2010
September 27, 2010
Former gambler lost $400,000 through her VLT addiction
Now she applauds archbishop for refusing to accept gambling revenue
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
In 1995 Gisele Jubinville put her first $20 into a VLT for entertainment. She immediately got hooked. When she tried the slot machines at the casino, the same thing happened. Seventeen months ago, when Jubinville woke up from her stupor, she had lost $400,000.
It wasn't easy to stop. In search of an explanation for her addiction, she began an extensive research into VLTs and slot machines. She read books, tried AADAAC programs and went into counselling.
Nothing that she did helped. She would go straight to the casino following a counselling session.
The only thing left was God. "When I realized that I was so severely addicted that's when I started to pray to God for help," she said Sept. 21 from her home in St. Albert.
Jubinville told the WCR she wanted to share her story to support Archbishop Richard Smith's call for schools to stop relying on casino revenues for funding.
"I didn't know what happened to me. I didn't understand. I didn't recognize me anymore."
It wasn't until years later, after she spoke to experts in the field, that she understood that VLT and slot machine addiction is not all the addict's fault. "The machines are intentionally designed to addict a person," she said.
"They always talk about the problem gamblers. We need to talk about the problem machines."
Jubinville was playing the machines even while she did her research. "I would basically go play the machines and then come back home and keep working on my research. I couldn't understand what was going on with me. My intuition kept telling me there was something wrong with the machines but it took me years to find out what it was."
When she discovered the "hidden truth" about the machines Jubinville was angry for months. "I felt duped. I felt wronged.
"My government is supposed to be there to protect and to serve its people and, for reasons that I still don't understand, we were not told the truth about the machines. So in turn I and all the people playing these machines are not able to make an informed choice when deciding to play these machines or accepting money from these machines for charity groups or in allowing them in our communities."
Jubinville said she has taken full responsibility for her 50 per cent of the addiction but says, "It's high time the government takes responsibility for their 50 per cent."
VLTs and slot machines act like crack cocaine in a person's brain, she said. "I'm not against gambling but I'm for telling people the truth about the machines so that they can make an informed choice. If I would've known what I know now, I can't imagine that I would have ever inserted my first $20."
Her research and the government's own research team shows that 60 per cent of VLT players are addicted. "This is a problem and yet all we ever hear is that a very small percentage of Albertans are problem gamblers, like three to five per cent."
Now her purpose in life is to create awareness about the truth about VLTs and slot machines.
When Jubinville found out that the monies raised from gambling machines are used by the Alberta Lottery Fund "to enhance the quality of life for Albertans," she knew something was wrong.
"We are taking over a billion dollars a year profit, of which 60 per cent is made on the backs of addicts. It's morally wrong to enhance our lives on the backs of addicts."
Jubinville started gambling for entertainment. "I was in a time of my life that my kids had grown up. I had a lot of money, we had built our dream home and I was taking time to see what I was going to do next."
So she started going to the casino to play poker. While she waited for her turn, she wandered around the casino looking at the slot machines. "I'm not one to sit idle so I decided to play the machines while I'm waiting. That's how I began."
Within a year she was playing more slot machines than poker.
NO ONE KNEW
For years no one in her family knew about her addiction, not even her husband.
"My husband had always trusted me with money. I was always the one who had taken care of the books and the finances so he had no cause at that time to question or to doubt. I would just say I was going out of town."
It also helped that her husband worked out of town a lot.
Jubinville took years to realize that her gambling was no longer entertainment. "It was an addiction. I would say that before I woke up to my addiction I had already lost $250,000."
She still couldn't stop, until she had almost depleted her savings.
Losing $400,000 was hard on Jubinville and her family. Fortunately she is a successful inventor who had sold patents for a lot of money; she is also an artist and businesswoman and her husband Len used to run a construction company.
"It's a miracle that I survived," she said. "One day I just about killed myself. I couldn't go on anymore. I was coming home from the casino and I thought how easy it would be to ride right in front of a big semi to end this.
"I couldn't live with my guilt anymore and I didn't know what else to do. I don't know. When I went to turn the steering wheel something stopped it."
The addiction nearly destroyed her marriage, her finances and her life. But her husband and children proved to be supportive and kind to her, never judging her actions. That's how Jubinville learned what unconditional love is all about.
She quit the VLTs about four years ago and the slot machines about 17 months ago. "I'm still very raw. I feel so fortunate that I survived this addiction because many people don't."
Jubinville said many people have done every addiction program available and still struggle daily with the addiction. "Some of them tell me they no longer want to live. They want to end it."
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