Addiction to gambling is one of the most severe afflictions plaguing our society and the Greek community is far from immune. It is a disease with devastating effects on people; altering their personalities, in a way similar to drug addiction. One can argue that gambling is a perfectly legal regulated drug, available in all venues offering video lottery terminals – or ‘poker machines’.

For a long time now, mental health professionals and social workers have been watching how these machines affect people and they have issued one warning after another, stating how addiction to ‘pokies’ can destroy families. It one such story of devastation that we are printing today, sent to Neos Kosmos by one of our readers who wishes to remain anonymous. It is a heart-breaking description of a mother’s addiction to poker machines and the effect of this addiction upon her family.

“Our mother is a Greek migrant, having come to Australia from Greece in 1957. Like many other migrants, she worked very hard, and she raised a family of five children. Now she is in her mid-80s and it seems our mother has a problem, a gambling addiction; she is addicted to the poker machines. This has been going on for 30 years and the effect it has on our family (and I believe on other families like ours) is this:
The gambling first started small, like going to bingo three times a week. Then going to bingo every day of the week. We do not find her home when we try to visit her. When we leave a message on her phone, she will call back at around 11.00 pm. This is the time she gets home from gambling. Our family has gone from a loving family, to a virtually non-existing family, certainly with no mother.

Our mother does not attend any family get-togethers. When I gave birth to my child, my mother did not visit me in the hospital. When a grandchild got engaged, she did not attend. She does not attend weddings, birthdays, outings, or anything to do with her family, be it her children or grandchildren. Our mother spends all day, every day, not with her family, but at the pokies. She has lost her family.

Our mother lies about everyone and everything and her whereabouts. She says she has to leave a place, to go and take her medication, instead, she goes to the pokies; she has learnt to lie and thinks we do not know. One night, our mother crashed her car into a pole while coming home from the pokies. Now the bus picks her up from her home; the venue gives her free meals, lunch, and dinner, yet our mother has diabetes. Another time, she was involved in an armed robbery while at the pokies. Yet, she still goes to the pokies day in and day out.

I no longer visit my mother, and there is no contact. I am unable to communicate to her what this is doing to her and our family. The effect this has had on me personally is that I feel I have no mother. I feel this as my mother is distant, not available, not receptive to me or my family or her family, the five children she had.

Our mother has become a shell of a person, an empty shell. She finds no pleasure in anything other than the poker machines. The addiction of gambling has a hold on her; we see our mother has moods; she seems to be in good spirits when she wins and an aggressive person when she loses.

Our mother has sold all her possessions to support her gambling. She will say she is not leaving anything to her children, as they have all abandoned her. The reality is that she is a gambler and sells off her possessions to support her addiction. Remember, we are talking about a once hard-working migrant woman, with a loving family, who now became a person who has no contact with her children or grandchildren. Our mother has relinquished her role as mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, sister, you name it. This is how gambling has affected our family.

I feel shame in knowing that my mother is leaving behind a legacy of a very sad, lonely, addicted woman, who had so much love to give and support to her family, to now being blinded by the effects of gambling on her and her family. This family has been torn apart by the addiction our mother has. We did not ask for this; it crept in slowly over the last 30 years. The disease has gripped her more than any love we can provide her.
The effect of gambling on families is devastating. It is a disease, and one that has affected our family in a very painful way.”