The Dark Side Of Video Lottery


It’s been 30 years since voters approved lottery for South Dakota.

While it’s done a lot of good for the state — generating $112 million last year alone — there’s also a dark side.

When South Dakotans began playing the lottery nearly 30 years ago, they were barely scratching the surface of what was to come later.  While most people play the lottery responsibly, a small percentage have paid a devastating price. 

“It was fun, it was a fun game,” Debbie said. 

This woman didn’t want to be identified, so we’ll call her Debbie. Debbie first started playing video lottery at a local establishment where she worked as a server.  At first, she would only play with small amounts of money. 

But due to other problems in her life, video lottery soon became her way of life. 

“It wasn’t probably more than four or five months and I was spending money I didn’t have to play,” Debbie said. 

Debbie says it got to the point where she was spending three to four thousand dollars by 10 o’clock in the morning. 

“When your husband asks why the house payment hasn’t been made or they’re going to shut the electricity off and you got to explain where the money went,” Debbie said.  

Rather than make excuses, Debbie began embezzling money from her work.

“When it got to the point where it was ferocious, I took money,” Debbie said. 

Lots of money – nearly $200,000 she embezzled from her employer. She was caught and spent two and a half years in prison.  

“There aren’t a lot of people making that kind of money that can feed that kind of an addiction,” Nancy Loken, a Keystone Treatment Center Counselor, said. 

Nancy Loken, a counselor at Keystone Treatment Center says when people are addicted, they’re desperate and will do most anything to get money, including stealing. 

“There’s an increase in crime, an increase in problems with employment, and an increase with family problems,” Nancy Loken a Keystone Treatment Center Counselor said. 

Loken says in all forms of gambling – including sports betting – video lottery addiction outranks the rest by 25-1 and the odds of kicking the habit by yourself aren’t good either.

Mainly because of the availability. Video lottery casinos are everywhere and the temptation for some is just too much.  Often times, a gambling addiction turns into another addiction, like alcohol.  A lot of casinos offer free beer while you play. 

“Unfortunately for the addicted gambler those free beers are usually $100 beers,” Loken said. 

“The lottery fully knows and understands there are certain people who do have issues with gaming,” State Lottery Director Norm Lingle said. 

The state has established programs to help those who over-indulge in the games. 

“The lottery provides dollars to the Department of Social Services to help with problems gambling treatment,” Lingle said. 

After Debbie got out of prison she sought help with her addiction at Keystone and says she’s never been so happy.  

She now has a fulltime job and managed to keep her marriage together.  She doesn’t blame anyone else for her addiction other than herself.  

Her message to others who are struggling with their own addiction is to seek help. 

“If you continue to practice your gambling addiction as it progresses, you will come to the point where it will end in insanity, prison or death,” Debbie said. 

“I think overall the lottery has met the intentions of the original legislation back in 1986, it has met the intentions of what voters have approved, we’ve been able to prove to the voters through several different elections that we do this responsibly,” Lingle said. 

“From the standpoint of an addiction counselor I’d like to see it be gone,” Loken said. 


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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