A gambler's ultimate loss - his life


A gambler's ultimate loss - his life: Suicide was a way out. "For me, it is the end of a deep and very powerful evil in which only the machine can win."

Not all VLT addicts who seek treatment kick their habit in time.

Buried among the 100 coroners' reports detailing suicides by compulsive gamblers in this province over the past eight years are some sad accounts of VLT addicts whose attempts to overcome their compulsion were ultimately in vain.

Claude Bilodeau, founder of the province's first residential centre for gamblers, can identify with those stories: his own battle with gambling addiction, he said, led him to try prostituting himself on one occasion, and to attempt suicide three times, before he finally got the help he needed.

Others have not managed to overcome their addiction. Bilodeau says three compulsive gamblers who were treated at the centre he founded in the Beauce ultimately committed suicide.

One such case was that of Eric Berube.

A 12-year veteran of the Levis police force just south of Quebec City, Berube had already lost his marriage to VLT addiction when he enrolled in a 28-day treatment program where he befriended Bilodeau in November 1998.

He completed the treatment, but the following winter, when he persuaded his police colleagues to help organize a fundraising hockey game for charity, his weakness got the better of him.

The game was a success, raising $1,600 for the Children's Wish Foundation. Berube had called fellow game organizers to a meeting the next day to tally up the books when he sat down to count the proceeds one evening.

Part way through the evening, his mother would later report, Berube headed out to a video-lottery bar where he lost $1,200 in less than 90 minutes.

For Berube, that was the final straw. The next morning he dropped by his police station, picked up his service revolver and drove to his cottage. Along the way, he phoned Bilodeau.

"Claude, I want you to listen to me," he said, according to an account later published in a report by coroner Bernard Couillard.

"I want you to continue the work that you do and I want you to talk about me so that you can help others. I want you to go to the church and tell my story. Call 911. I'm going to be in the shed of my cottage."

Bilodeau pleaded with him, but Berube hung up. By the time police arrived at his cottage, he had shot himself in the chest.

On his cabin stove, Berube left many notes behind. Couillard quoted from two them in his report.

The first was his suicide note. "When I was young, I didn't believe gambling could be dangerous but believe me, it is," Berube wrote. "Now, this suffering I've lived with for years will soon be over. I beg forgiveness of all those I've made suffer. God knows it wasn't my intent."

Another note he left behind was addressed to the Canadian Children's Wish Foundation. In it, he directed his estate to cover the money he had lost gambling.

"This is the result of a long process of destruction," he wrote. "I am a law-abiding man and I've spent my entire career as a police officer with pride, honour and a code of ethics. But this I cannot pardon. For me, it is the end of a deep and very powerful evil in which only the machine can win."