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The New Crack Cocaine
Convenience Store Slot Machines Very Addictive

by Amanda Smith

You see it every day. Walk into practically any convenience store in Georgia and there will be several people sitting at the slot machines, gambling away. Often, the individual will lose all of his/her money. Why do they do it?

Why people plug hundreds, even thousands of dollars into these machines is a relatively easy question to answer. Gambling is an addiction just like any other addiction and the emotional and psychological payoff is the same as it is for the alcoholic, drug addict or pill popper. The thrill of possible "easy" money is irresistible to many people and the practice can become practically impossible to stop.

As a recovering addict whose last drug of choice was crack, I can say with certainty that convenience store slot machines are the new crack cocaine. There is a store with a machine on practically every corner; the drug addict can find a crack rock in practically every low-income neighborhood in Georgia. One pull on the machine is never enough; one crack rock is never enough - the never - ending cry of the gambler and the crack addict is more, more, MORE!

If the gambling addict is asked a few simple questions, the similarity becomes even clearer. Question: How does it feel to win? Answer: It feels good all over. Question: How does it feel to smoke some crack? Answer: It feels good all over. Question: What are you thinking when you get down to your last $5? Answer: I can't stop now; I know I'm about to win - just $5 more. Question: What are you thinking when you get down to your last crack rock? Answer: I can't stop now; I know I'll get high with the next rock - just one more!


Addiction is an endless cycle of get some money, get high (or put it in the machine); come down from the high; get some more money. The addict has to repeat that "high" feeling and can't stop until all money is gone and even then, many will hustle, con, manipulate, and steal to get more money to feed the addiction. Convenience store slot machines are no different - they are the new crack cocaine!

"If I can stay away from the machines, I'm alright," said John M, who asked not to be identified. "But once I put the first dollar in, I'm hooked. I just can't stop. My mind keeps telling me that I'm gonna win on the next dollar; I have to 'cause I haven't won yet so the odds are in my favor." Actually, this is a myth. Statistically, your odds are the same every time you place a bet - very low, and your odds of winning don't increase the more you play.

"Every day, I tell myself I'm only gonna play $5 but I always end up spending everything I have in my purse when I walked in the door," said Janice, a slot machine addict who plays daily at a convenience store in east Macon. "I've tried to save a little money so I can come back the next day, but I just can't. My mind won't let me stop. And if somebody sitting next to me wins, I wait for them to leave so I can get on the "lucky" machine," she continued. "I know it doesn't make sense, but I just can't stop." Gee, that sounds a lot like me 6 years ago, saying "I'm only gonna smoke one crack rock".

Although the odds of winning are very slim, the machines are calculated to allow a win occasionally. This "win" is a delusion - the gambler spends much more they he/she ever wins. But the tremendous "high" from that occasional win keeps the gambler coming back for more, trying in desperation to win again. Reminds me of chasing that first high, the first time I smoked crack.

When most people hear the word "addict" or "addiction" they immediately think of the drug addict or alcoholic, but addiction can and does take many forms. There are many addictions: food, sex, shopping, eating, etc. As a person who has been an addict for 33 years, with 6 years clean, I know that gambling is an addiction, just like any other. The fact that it’s legal just makes it that much harder to address. There is no stigma surrounding the person plugging all their money into a machine, but if you have a person buying a crack rock from the corner drug dealer, that person is the dregs of society. Using is using, whether it's a crack rock, a pill, a drink, some meth or a slot machine.

It is my humble opinion that ALL addictions need to be addressed and treated, including the using going on in practically every convenience store in Georgia.

Gwenette Westbrooks
Amanda Smith
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