Gambler makes himself unwelcome

Gambler makes himself unwelcome; Psychologist tries to break his addiction with self-imposed ban at casinos

If Andy Dalrymple walks into Casino Rama outside Orillia, khaki- clad security police will spot him, march him out the door and possibly slap him with trespassing charges.

And that's just the way he wants it.

"I got myself banned at every casino from here to the mighty Niagara," says Dalrymple, once a prominent psychologist who is now trying to kick a gambling addiction that dragged him toward self- destruction and turned his wife and children against him.

It took Dalrymple, 48, three attempts to get his name added to Casino Rama's voluntary self-exclusion list.

"I went there three times. The first two times, I just ended up gambling."

The third time, about six months ago, Dalrymple took a friend from his church to make sure he went directly to the security department, not the blackjack tables where he once gambled for two days straight.

The security staff took four photographs of Dalrymple and sent copies to the casinos in Niagara Falls and Windsor.

"My mug shot and name have been put up on security posters along with international cheats," Dalrymple said.

The ban lasts two years. Dalrymple hopes that will give him time to reconstruct his shattered life and re-establish connections with his family.

Dalrymple got his first taste of gambling 10 years ago, playing blackjack at a charity casino.

He lost $40, but the next time he took a seat at a charity casino he walked away a winner -- and the hook was set.

About that time Dalrymple was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, an incurable neurological disorder that causes muscles to shake involuntarily.

In the early stages of his disease, Dalrymple was able to keep working.

But a few years ago, he had to give up his professional calling and fall back on a long-term disability pension, cutting his income by one-third.

It was then that he threw himself headlong into gambling to maintain his family's standard of living -- a deal with the devil, disguised as a personal business decision.

"I thought I could win back the difference," he said.

And he did win -- in the beginning.

"In the early stages when I was winning, my wife was more than happy to accept the winnings."

But Dalrymple's luck took the inevitable tumble.

"I've never seen a big-time winner stay a winner. You get behind, throwing bad money after good, digging a deeper hole."

Then the self-deception started, the big wins fixed brightly in the memory like jewels, the bigger losses sinking like stones below the level of consciousness.

Sometimes he'd gamble for one or two days at a stretch, stopping for short intervals to grab a snack in a casino restaurant.

"Here I am -- a smart-aleck psychologist and my life is going down the tubes," he recalls.

As his gambling debts deepened, Dalrymple lashed out at his wife and alienated himself from his three sons.

In a welter of self-loathing, anger and depression, he spent a month in a locked psychiatric facility near Toronto. "I was set to self-destruct," he says.

Dalrymple hit rock bottom 18 months ago.

"My whole life was falling apart. In my mind, I was losing everything."

His medical condition was getting worse, the gambling was becoming morbidly excessive and his family was coming apart.

Today Dalrymple is living alone in a apartment in Orillia, where he worked from 1980 to 1989 as a psychologist at the Huronia Regional Centre.

He's become a member of the Anglican church and talks about renewed faith in God and himself.

"I feel pretty confident I'm over it," he said. "I'm beginning to straighten things out with my wife."

Dalrymple has chopped up his credit cards and paid off his debts.

And while Dalrymple criticizes government-supported gambling as "preying on human weakness," he says the ultimate source of the problem and the road to recovery lies within oneself.

"When you get right down to it, it's up to you."