Addiction can impair an individual’s judgment in grievous ways. Cases involving gambling addiction can be among the most devastating.
Over the years, local news accounts have provided troubling examples: The 75-year-old nun who took more than $250,000 from a church agency. The Douglas County treasurer’s deputy convicted of stealing more than $120,000. The Omaha accountant who took $6,000 from a local business. The conservator who took $15,000 from his mother’s account.
In each case, the stolen funds were gambled and lost. Money that should have gone to worthwhile purposes instead was frittered away because an individual proved unable to resist the grip of a gambling problem.
The case of former State Sen. Brenda Council provides the latest disheartening example of addiction’s dangers.
Council has a record of notable accomplishment and dedication through her years of public service as an Omaha City Council member, OPS board member and state senator. But she also has suffered from a serious gambling addiction, one that led her to take more than $63,000 from her campaign funds over a 2½-year period and lose it all at casinos.
In a state case on the matter, Council pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, paid a $500 fine and said she was seeking help to address her gambling problem. In a federal case, she has pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges. U.S. District Judge Lyle Strom will decide whether to require probation, as prosecutors are recommending, or to impose a stronger penalty.
Her legal situation also has triggered a review by the Nebraska Supreme Court to decide whether she should be allowed to continue practicing law.
This case starkly illustrates the harm and heartache that untreated gambling addiction can produce.
Help is available in the Midlands for men and women suffering from gambling addiction. In Nebraska, the number is 1-800-522-4700. In Iowa, 1-800-BETS-OFF.
As the examples of Council and others show, ignoring one’s gambling addiction is always a losing bet.