Pamela Wick is five months into a 10-year prison term for stealing more than $520,000, then losing it all – and more – at casinos, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Timothy Verbunker burglarized more than 50 churches to play slot machines. While there are no statistics on how many people run afoul of the law for gambling in Wisconsin, anecdotal evidence suggests that people such as Wick and Verbunker are becoming increasingly common, said Rose Gruber of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling.
Calls to the council’s gambling helpline have nearly tripled since 1996, with callers reporting escalating amounts of gambling debt. “Every time we turn around, we hear about someone else,” Gruber said. “I would say that in the last two or three years, we’ve seen an increase.” The crimes that put Wick, Verbunker and other compulsive gamblers behind bars are the result of an overpowering addiction, says Gruber, and it will take more than time to turn them around. “The addiction is still there while they are in prison,” she said. “It is something they need to work on.”