Court hears how VLT addiction spawned scheme

She began by spending her life savings. When those funds were depleted, she blew her paycheques and maxed out her credit cards with cash advances, which she pumped into video lottery terminals.

But that wasn't enough money to feed the addiction that had taken hold of her. So Christine Cecylia Armstrong started to forge her husband's cheques. To supplement those ill-gotten funds, she sold off a diamond from her wedding ring for $1,000.

It wasn't until all of those avenues were exhausted that Armstrong began siphoning money from her employer, defence lawyer Vic Russell explained Monday.

Gambling addiction leads to prison

An Alberta woman was convicted of stealing over $100,000 from her employer because of a gambling addiction. She was given a conditional sentence of eighteen months to be served in the community. The sentencing judge acknowledged that time in jail was required unless there were exceptional circumstances. He felt that although an addiction to gambling was not an exceptional circumstance, the addiction in addition to her stress and psychological turmoil justified a sentence served outside of prison. The Crown appealed the sentence.

Compulsive gambling very costly: It destroys lives, and families, but it can be treated

Going to play bingo was something 49-year-old Judy did to meet people.

The divorced Chatham mom was lonely and wanted a night out. But in less than a year, the weekly outing became an almost daily excursion.

Although she wouldn't admit it at the time, it was becoming a problem.

"I was going every night and I would spend my whole days off from work there," she said.

At first, she was winning.

"It felt great, I would go back thinking I can win more and then I started losing."

The spread of VLT addiction

Three years ago, in an effort to save Quebecers from themselves, the provincial government passed legislation to govern video lottery terminals (VLTs). Sounding responsibly prim, the government announced that there would be only 15,065 of them in 4,370 licensed establishments, to which people under 18 years of age would not be admitted.

Evidence mounts against VLTs; Full social costs are emerging

So great has been the impact of video lottery terminals in Alberta that it is easy to forget how new a phenomenon they are in the province. In just six years they have become the colossus of Alberta gambling, producing 60 per cent of all gambling revenues.

Because they are so new, all the evidence on what these gambling machines are doing to our society is not yet in. Many of us suspect that VLTs are causing great hardship, and we're touched by the individual tragedies that get reported in the newspaper. But the full social costs have been hard to measure.