A farm woman in Texas contacted me recently, asking me to address gambling addiction.  Her husband, a gambler since childhood, passed away in a New Mexico casino in December without her knowledge until the hospital where he was taken telephoned her to report his death.

I am grateful to the Texas woman for sharing her story frankly in today’s article.  Next week we will examine gambling as a national and farming issue.   

“Charlotte” said her husband, “Vic,” died of a brain aneurysm sitting in front of a slot machine.  Char said the 4-6 percent estimate of persons who gamble is too low.  “Farmers in particular,” she said, “are prone to gamble and more are addicts than we will ever know.”

Char said Vic took trips at least twice weekly to gamble, telling her only where he was headed.  Usually his ventures to casinos were within a couple hours of driving-distance, but occasionally farther away if he had won a payout there previously and felt he had a chance of winning a larger purse.

Char said her husband, who was 65 years old when he died, grew up in a family that played cards whenever they got together, and always for money.  Chances of winning money made playing pitch or poker more interesting, Vic claimed.

“He would get mad at me,” Char observed.  “If I criticized his card-playing and casino hopping, he said gambling was just entertainment.  But it was more.  He was addicted to gambling and I couldn’t stop him.”

During his stint in the U.S. Army Vic spent much of his free time playing cards with other soldiers or visiting nearby casinos, Char said.  When they visited a casino on their honeymoon, this was the last time Char stepped inside a gaming facility until after his death, she stated.

After marrying, Vic began farming with his father.  Char helped with the farm operation when she could.  They raised cattle, corn, cotton, and children (their four Cs), “but casinos became his fifth C, not me,” Char said caustically.

When Vic tried to entice their children to join him and his buddies in card games, Char “put her foot down.”  Char commented that eventually the children formed their own opinions that their father would have been more successful if he didn’t have a penchant for gambling; none of their four children participate in betting or card-playing now.

After cell phones became available, Char demanded that Vic carry a mobile phone everywhere with him, including when farming after he took over his parents’ operation.  He had problems with high blood pressure and plaque build-up in his coronary and carotid arteries.

When Vic didn’t come home at the expected time, Char called him on his cell phone.  Sometimes he didn’t answer the phone when he was visiting a casino, but when Vic did answer his phone while gambling, she couldn’t reason with him.  He told her belligerently, “mind your own business.”

It seemed that Vic was on a delusional slope that became more slippery as he aged, said Char.  When he bragged how he won almost $10,000 on a trip to a casino in New Mexico a couple years ago, Char and their youngest daughter, a tax preparer, required that Vic furnish a complete win-loss statement for federal and state tax reports.

Even though Vic’s report showed he had won about $18,000 and lost $44,000 during the entire year, he insisted he had forgotten some of his winnings.  The bottom line did not include his travel expenses and time spent gambling.

Char began working outside the home after their last child entered high school.  Her earnings as a school administration secretary covered the last dozen farm payments, she said.

Vic said he was on his way for a doctor’s appointment the day he died, Char noted.  When the medical clinic called to ask why Vic didn’t show up for his 11:00 a.m. appointment, she began calling Vic on his cell phone to no avail and to the various casinos he liked to visit.  The casino staff wouldn’t look for him, claiming it “wasn’t their job.”  Char worried.

Around 4:00 p.m., the hospital in New Mexico that examined Vic after he had arrived by ambulance informed Char that Vic had expired of a probable brain aneurysm at the local casino, which an autopsy later confirmed.

The next day Char and her youngest daughter drove to the casino to retrieve Vic’s pickup truck and to consult the casino management.  The manager denied knowing Vic personally.  As the dismayed pair wandered through the array of slot machines they noticed a young woman dressed in casino garb and stopped to talk with her.

Char described her husband and asked the casino attendant if she knew Vic.  “Oh yeah,” she said, “He was here a lot.”

Stay tuned for next week’s follow-up.