Woman fights gambling addiction with "self-exclusion" program - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Woman fights gambling addiction with "self-exclusion" program

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MURPHYSBORO -- A Jackson County woman takes control of her gambling addiction with a program that keeps her out of places that have gaming machines.

"I'm in control. This is not beating me. I made the choice to self-exclude," says Mary Frazer, of Murphysboro.

Frazer struggled with a major gambling problem for years. She has now decided to take control of her addiction and wants others to hold her accountable through a program called "self-exclusion."

In July 2002, the Illinois Gaming Board launched a statewide voluntary self-exclusion program. The program allows problem gamblers to exclude themselves from Illinois casinos.

"They're going to know that person and they're going to say, 'Hey, you know what, you have self-excluded. I'm respecting that you're you, but we have to ask you to leave.'"

Frazer said her addiction got so bad she had to get help or lose everything. She said she would be on the video gaming machines five days a week, for several hours.

Frazer wrote a letter with her picture attached, hoping to give to all businesses with gaming machines. 

"I am asking that you do not allow me into your place of business. As an addict, I am not strong enough to do this on my own," Frazer's letter read.     

She says she went to a casino for the first time 10 years ago out of curiosity. 

"It's the smell, it's the noise, it's the visual stuff that attracts you," she said.

She went with $200 in her pocket and left with $2,500. From there, she describes herself, as hooked.

"It was an adrenaline rush like, it was unbelievable. It was excitement, you know. Everybody around like, 'Yeah, you did it. Good job," says Frazer. 

Frazer made attempts to stop, but would relapse.    

"Now, I look back and I was like, I was trying to win my losses back. I was chasing my losses." adds Frazer. 

The addiction started to control the mother of 10, with bouts of depression, mood swings and irresponsibility with her finances.

"I was like, "Okay, well, I won't pay this bill but then I'll wait and I'll figure out something. Something will come up within the next two weeks, where I can pay this bill because I gambled it," she says. 

This year, Frazer got clean. About three weeks ago, she started a Gamblers Anonymous group at a local church, and has asked businesses with gaming machines to keep her out. She also started a business, helping take people to and from their jobs.

"My addiction, it rolled over to a passion to help other people," adds Frazer. 

Now, with a new found purpose, she hopes to help others. Frazer is hoping her city will incorporate a "self-exclusion" policy for those who have the same problem.

The Gamblers Anonymous group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m at United Methodist Church in Murphysboro.

If you'd like to learn more on self-exclusion, click here.

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