The human toll
Spinning out of control
A lot of the discussion about VLTs focuses on studies, statistics and fact, facts, facts. There are an awful lot of them. But this story is most importantly about people who have faced the darkness of a gambling addiction. These are three of their stories.
By King’s Investigative Workshop
South Ohio, N.S.–Brenda Hurlburt is sitting in the large, open concept main level of the home she and her husband own on a quiet, country road outside Yarmouth. She’s leafing through a binder.
It’s the sort of three-ring binder high school students carry around, but she calls this one sacred. She put it together during treatment for her nearly 15-year VLT addiction.
The instructions were to make one collage, but she went beyond that, creating an entire binder full of pages devoted to her family life, her childhood, her grandson, her deceased pet, a dog named Butch.
Love, dreams, time, memories, joy.
“That’s all the stuff my addiction stole from me.”
Hurlburt is one of thousands of Nova Scotians who have faced the same addiction, one that studies show is difficult to beat. An investigation by students at the University of King’s College has found that despite a five-year gaming strategy introduced in April 2005, video lottery terminals are still hooking people, leading some to bankruptcy, family breakup and crime.
Hurlburt hit her rock bottom last November when she started thinking that it would be easier to die than to fight back. “I just hit such a low, I just felt like I was being swallowed up by this big black tornado just sucking me down.”
She and her husband, Howard, decided to separate that month. They’re still together, and happy again, but it was a close call.