Brace yourself for more gambling crime as the economy falters. So says Ruben Rosario of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He cites an unemployed St. Paul man who wascharged with blowing his severely mentally ill sister’s life savings to sustain an apparent gambling addiction. The woman, who lives in an assisted-living facility, had assets of $293,561 in 2006. That nest egg was sucked down to $5 this past August, when the law discovered the alleged crime. The man, according to authorities, also went through his own six-figure inheritance. Another man pleaded guilty to stealing more than $43,000 from an athletic club, reportedly to support a compulsive gambling problem. Rosario says his gut feeling is that more of these cases popping up on criminal court dockets and in calls to gambling hotlines.
Calls to the National Council on Problem Gambling have gone up by 12,000 in each of the past four years. “So far, we are seeing the same pattern in 2009,” said Keith Whyte, the group’s director. Dakota County, Mn., prosecutor James Backstrom says: “While I anticipate we may be seeing an upturn in theft crimes due to the recession we are currently in, this has not been occurring yet. Obviously, we hope it won’t, but stressful times often lead to more crime, both domestic-related and financial-related.”