Recovered gambling addict who spent millions talks about the dark side of gambling

Stack of chips on roulette table
Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 18:32:43-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – A gambling addiction can cause you to lose your house, job and your loved ones.

A News 3 Investigation examines gambling addictions as we head into one of the biggest sporting event weekends of the year.

Super Bowl 2022 takes place this Sunday.

In the state of Virginia, people can participate in skilled gaming, the lottery, horse racing and sports betting. There have never been so many legal ways to gamble in the Commonwealth.

“When you're a gambling addict, you'll do just about anything,” said Bob Cabaniss, founder and executive director of the Williamsville Wellness/Summit Hill Rehabilitation Centers. The centers treat people who have various kinds of addictions.

Cabaniss is also a gambling addict who has been in recovery for the past 18 years. He talked to News 3 about the dark side of gambling.

“I had to have the action every day,” said Cabaniss.

He said over the course of several decades, he gambled away millions of dollars.

“It's a big mess, but while you're in the throes of it, you don't think it's a big mess,” said Cabaniss.

He liked betting on sports, especially baseball.

“If you bet on baseball, you're normally pretty sick, because you can't beat baseball,” said Cabaniss.

He said one of his biggest wagers was a $50,00 bet on Super Bowl one year.

The American Gaming Association released new numbers saying a record 31.4 million Americans plan to bet on this year’s Super Bowl, a 35% increase from 2021, betting an estimated $7.61 billion on the big game, which is a 78% increase from last year.

Carolyn Hawley is the president of Virginia Council on Problem Gambling.

She said with increased opportunities to gamble, we're going to see more people developing problems.

The council reported an increase to the number of people calling their helpline in 2021.

Hawley said they attribute the increase to more people reaching out for help as well as more awareness about the helpline.

“What we've seen is this incredible expansion regarding our callers who are calling about problems with sports betting,” said Hawley.

She said they’ve seen an increase in younger callers as well.

“We need to work with our clergy members, our healthcare providers on how to recognize gambling disorders in family members. This is a hidden addiction - you don't smell it; you don't have bloodshot eyes,” said Hawley.

She said it is an addiction that can cause you to spend way too much money, lie to loved ones, have issues at work or in relationships and sometimes find things spiraling out of control.

“Often by the time somebody comes in and you find out there's a problem, finances have been devastated, lives have been ruined, jobs have been lost. It may have gone as far into involve criminal activity,” said Hawley.

She said that is why they are trying to educate people before things spiral out of control.

Cabaniss got help 18 years ago with the encouragement of his wife. He believes more money that’s generated from legalized gaming and gambling should be put towards help those with problem gambling.

While he’s not against gambling, he thinks it can have a negative impact on society.

Cabaniss said the winners are the bookies, the state and the casinos who are making money.

“They don't lose money in these things. The better loses; the person loses; the economy loses,” said Cabaniss.

Experts say gambling addicts also have a higher rate of suicide.

They say there are different levels when it comes to the problem. Some people experience a full-blown addiction to gambling, while others may experience just problematic behavior associated with it.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, you can call 1-888-532-3500.

For more information about the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, click here.

To learn more about the Williamsville Wellness/ Summit Hill Rehabilitation Centers, click here.

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