Cheol Joon Baek
I've been a problem gambler for 10 years, but my addiction got worse when I moved from Toronto to Niagara Falls, where the drive to New York's Seneca Niagara Casino was five minutes instead of well over an hour.
I abused credit cards, multiple lines of credit, loans with interest as high as 30 per cent, overdrafts and payday loans. I estimate I've lost in the six digits, and now I'm $80,000 in the hole.
I liked gambling so much, I got a job at a casino. I've seen many things: good people ruined, turned into shells of human beings. I've known some who've killed themselves.
I've never been suicidal, but I fully understand why someone would want to just end it. At one point, I gambled 22 hours straight. The last few years, it was no longer about the money - I simply would not leave the casino until all my cash was gone. The slot machines were what hooked me. Technological advances have made them the crack cocaine of gambling, a very painful addiction and hugely understated by the gaming industry and governments. I didn't realize how inhuman it is until I finally quit.
When you spend years gambling five days a week, you see the same people day in, day out. There are programs in casinos to help problem gamblers "exclude" themselves (voluntarily put themselves on a list so managers won't admit them), but such remedies are rarely used. In my 10 years gambling, I excluded myself three times, and though I went to many casinos, I was never asked to leave.
In 2011, after numerous relapses, I asked for a meeting with the director of table games at the casino where I worked and told her I needed help. As it turns out, I was the first person who had done this in 15 years.
She arranged another job for me. It wasn't the greatest situation and I had zero support from the company. After numerous further relapses, I decided to quit.
Turns out that if you work in the industry, you're 70 per cent more likely to develop a gambling addiction, and managers do little to help these employees.
I've gone to Gamblers Anonymous, counselling, rehab and group therapy, and after unemployment and welfare, I'm now at Seneca College in the social service worker program specializing in responsible gambling.
I hate it that governments sell casinos as entertainment. I fell hook, line and sinker.