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Gambling addiction often fuels embezzlement, other crimes

For many Pittsburgh-area residents, an addiction to gambling is every bit as insidious and life-consuming as an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Gambling at local casinos and racetracks can cost addicts their jobs, homes or families as finding money to feed their sickness becomes their primary obsession. Many cases of embezzlement or other white collar crimes are due to a gambling addiction, as a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes.

Authorities say that three area residents who were charged in two separate embezzlement cases on Feb. 25 used the money to gamble at locations like the Meadows Racetrack and Casino. In one case, a longtime employee of West Penn Allegheny Health System is accused of diverting more than $713,000 in receipts into a personal checking account. Prosecutors say he lost all of the money gambling.

In the second case, prosecutors claim that two cafeteria workers with the Charleroi Area School District embezzled $94,000 from the cafeteria's budget to use on slot machines at the Meadows.

Organizations such as Gamblers Anonymous exist to help people lost in a gambling addiction get clean and rebuild their lives. One longtime member described how addicts may turn to embezzlement or theft to feed their addiction. He said that they often have run out of friends and relatives to borrow money from, or feel embarrassed to ask. Addicts may tell themselves that they will give the money back after a big win. But eventually, they lose the money and cannot pay it back, he said.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Theft just one sign of gambling addiction," Amy McConnell Schaarsmith, Paula Reed Ward and Molly Born, Feb. 26, 2013

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