Recovering addicts wonder what's next for legal gambling in Arizona

Recovering addicts wonder what's next for legal gambling in Arizona

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Some local businesses in southern Arizona hope to cash in on however the state handles legalized sports betting, but recovering gambling addicts have mixed feelings about it.

Several members of Tucson's chapter of Gamblers Anonymous spoke with Tucson News Now following the news.

One man stated that he, personally, wasn't concerned about any new outlets for gambling, but he worried that it may create new problem gamblers. Another recovering addict stated that she opposes any sort of additional gambling options in Arizona because she's afraid that some people don't know when to stop.

Lee, who has been in the program for 27 years across four states, was willing to speak more in-depth about the issue. He stressed that he does not speak for the organization, but he's proud of the work its done.

"I do not think I'd be alive today if it were not for Gamblers Anonymous," he said.

Before he attended his first meeting, Lee would plan his future trips to the race track, sports book or poker table as soon as he was leaving the last one. Even after a big payout, he said roughly a month later it hit him that gambling wasn't about the money. For Lee, it was an escape that he was finally ready to leave.

"It didn't matter to me how I got the money to be there," he said. "It didn't matter to me if I left relationships all in shambles. None of that mattered. "

What matters to him now is his wife and family. Lee said he wouldn't be tempted by any expansion in legal gambling in Arizona, but generally speaking, he can't believe how available it already is.

"I don't think I could've survived five years with gambling the way it is now, 24/7 accessibility," said Lee.
He hopes that any new rules or regulations regarding legal sports betting in Arizona comes with additional resources to help individuals who are ready to quit like he was nearly three decades ago.

"Compulsive gambling is an illness." he said. "This isn't a situation of bad people trying to become good, it's about sick people trying to get well."

The Arizona Department of Gaming has a Division of Problem Gambling (https://problemgambling.az.gov/) and the Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling (http://www.azccg.org/Tucson.html) has a help line 1-800-777-7207.

The Tucson chapter of Gamblers Anonymous (http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/locations) can be reached at 520-570-7879 and the Phoenix location is available at 480-598-1226.

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