Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction

Keno, Quick-Draw Is Extremely Addicting

A personal story by Roy D. Wright


Beginning June 1, some Missouri bars, restaurants and fraternal clubs will offer a quick-draw Lottery game. It is similar to the keno game in casinos that Wright played - with about $500,000 she embezzled from her employer.

Wright, 48, says she never even had a traffic ticket before she began stealing from a small business in Hazelwood. Wright was arrested in September 1999.

Missouri prisons offer no treatment options for gambling addictions.

Taken from a story by Virginia Young St. Louis Post-Dispatch Jefferson City bureau 02/18/2002

January 30, 2002

To: Members of the Missouri State House of Representatives

From: Roy D. Wright

Dear House Member,

My name is Roy Wright and I have been a police officer in the State of Missouri for almost 28 years and have risen to the rank of Captain.

I would like to bring to your attention a situation that involves my wife, Deborah Wright #1043371, who is presently incarcerated in the Women's Eastern Correctional Facility in Vandalia, Missouri.

On Sept. 16, 1999 my wife was arrested for embezzling money from her employer. It was at this time that we discovered that my wife had a serious gambling addiction. No one in our family nor her employer was aware of this problem and it continued over the course of five years.

When Debbie was first arrested she was interviewed by Special Agent Bill Schegel of the St. Louis office of the FBI. When Debbie was arrested she was deeply remorseful and relieved to have been caught because her addiction was controlling her life and she could not control her actions. She has been diagnosed by her psychiatrist, psychologist and therapist as a pathological gambler. I do have written documentation to verify this diagnosis.

During the interview with Agent Schlegel, he informed her that based on the amount of money taken she was facing a sentence of 18 - 24 months in a federal institution. Debbie was completely cooperative and gave him a complete statement admitting her guilt. At the conclusion of the interview, investigators from the Hazelwood P.D. arrived and took custody of Debbie. These investigators interviewed Debbie and again she was completely cooperative and repeated her statement. For some unknown reason she was prosecuted in State Court instead of Federal Court. As I read the newspaper daily there are countless articles of similar cases in the St. Louis area. All of these cases are adjudicated in Federal Court and sentences are handed down using the Mandatory Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Prior to Debbie appearing in court I was thoroughly investigated by Hazelwood P.D., the FBI and the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office as to my possible involvement in her activities. I submitted to two polygraph examinations and passed both of these examinations, demonstrating that I had no knowledge of Debbie's activities.

The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office offered to charge Debbie with 6 counts of Stealing Over 750 dollars and 1 count of Failure to Pay Income Tax, if she would agree to plead guilty to a 10 year sentence. They also advised her that if she did not accept this plea agreement they would pile up the cases against her. On advise of her attorney she intended to plead guilty against the recommendation of a 10 year sentence. When the prosecutor's office learned of her intentions they issued a warrant for her arrest and issued 24 counts and a bond of $150,000.00. This was in April of 2000. The number of counts issued by prosecutor's office did not change the circumstances of her crime and seemed excessive. The bond seemed excessive in light of the fact that during the prolonged investigation she was never considered to be a flight risk. We were also advised that the prosecutor would not entertain probation for Debbie because they were thoroughly convinced that she would never again be involved in criminal behavior. To this day I do not understand why she was prosecuted in State Court as opposed to Federal Court like all of the other area cases.

Prior to Debbie pleading guilty in court we were advised that the sentencing judge intended to sentence her to two consecutive 4 year sentences because in Missouri she would serve approximately 18 -24 months and this was right in line with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines had she been prosecuted in Federal Court. Debbie entered a guilty plea predicated on these conversations with the judge and she was sentenced on June 23, 2000.

Based on Missouri State Guidelines Debbie was eligible for release on 8-16-01. This was the minimum as stipulated by Missouri State Guidelines. She is a first time offender of a Class C Felony. Debbie had a parole hearing on 4-13-01. Debbie has an impeccable institutional record and the hearing panel told her that she has done everything for herself that she can while incarcerated. Debbie, myself, family, friends and community leaders were shocked that the Parole Board assigned her a release date of 2-19-04. I was informed by a probation officer that women in the State of Missouri serve approximately 2 months for every year sentenced. She is being made to serve 46% of her sentence as a first time offender and does not have the opportunity for treatment for her gambling addiction while incarcerated.

Offenders who commit crimes while using drugs and alcohol are eligible for treatment and early release. The state recognizes her addiction, but she is being held to a higher standard and must serve more time and does not get to receive treatment until she is released. The state receives millions of dollars from the Missouri Casinos and money is set aside for problem gamblers. There are state sponsored programs for problem gamblers on an out patient basis, but the parole board has judged her again and is delaying her continued treatment that they themselves stipulate until she is eventually released.

I have read articles that state the monies set aside for problem gamblers was not used for this purpose and was allocated for other programs. Why are not offenders, diagnosed as pathological gamblers, provided with treatment just like drug addicts and alcoholics?

Recently the St. Louis Post Dispatch printed articles about Governor Holden's proposal to lift the $500.00 loss limit to generate additional revenues. Also the Missouri Lottery has been given the green light for a Keno style game called Quick Draw. I understand the need for additional revenues, but how many more offenders and victims will be created due to ease of becoming pathological gamblers? If the State provides the opportunity for this to occur then the State should stand by its intentions of providing treatment for the problem gambler. My wife's case demonstrates that the State will not provide this treatment nor will the state allow them to get treatment. They will serve longer sentences. I have spoken to a reporter from the Post-Dispatch and this reporter is making arrangements to interview my wife and may write an article to make sure that the residents of Missouri know what is going on with problems gamblers in this state.

I have pleaded with the Board of Probation and Parole to reconsider its decision and they refuse to advance Debbie's release date so that she can get her needed treatment even though the board has stipulated her to continued treatment once she is released. There are several individuals, including state officials, who have advocated on her behalf because the treatment she has received from the judicial system and the correctional system appears to be discriminatory and excessive.

My wife is a very loving and caring person. She is the mother of three children and grandmother of three grandchildren. This terrible incident has affected all of our lives and she now has her priorities in order. When Debbie was first arrested she immediately started attending Gamblers Anonymous and successfully completed their 12 step program and she started seeing her private psychiatrist. She is well on the road to recovery. She now realizes that family is the most important thing in life and I am convinced, as is everyone else that this will never happen again. The State is delaying her continued recovery and treatment.

With the potential change in the gaming laws and the institution of Quick Draw I believe that the residents of the State of Missouri need to know that this can happen to them also. It can happen to anyone. The citizens also need to know how the system will deal with them. The State takes alcoholism and drug addiction into consideration when considering sentencing with offenders, but not so with pathological gamblers. I have been in touch with the chairman of the organization called Casino Watch and they are very interested in this case and the chairman is discussing possible options with their lawyers.

I know that the Board of Probation and Parole can advance a release date at any time. Debbie is scheduled for a review on 12-19-02. State statute allows that an offender who has 12 months or less to serve prior to their release can be released to house arrest or electronic monitoring. Officials at Vandalia have told us that based on her institutional record and behavior they would recommend her for early release. To my dismay I was advised by a member of the Parole Board that they discontinued this program over one year ago. Vandalia is presently overcrowded, why not utilize this program for non violent first time offenders? We even offered to pay for the equipment for the program. They just don't use the program.

As I stated earlier I have served the State of Missouri for almost 28 years and continue to serve. I have seen a lot during my years of service and I do not understand the disparate treatment given to my wife. Other offenders who have stolen much more and even violent offenders have been given lesser sentences and serve less time.

I presently have an application form for Debbie to fill out requesting clemency from the Governor. I know during these trying times that everyone is very busy with everyday business of the State government plus the additional concerns of homeland security. This process can take a very long time.

I would ask that you give my wife's situation some consideration. I am willing to discuss the matter with you at your convenience to provide you more details.

Debbie was recently accepted to a mentoring program that is located in the St. Louis area. After her release she may be accepted as a mentor herself for someone else. After her release she would like to get involved in a program where she can share her experiences with others and possibly prevent some one else from making the same mistakes and prevent another offender and another victim. To help keep others from making the same mistakes the news media may be interested in her story about the potential affects of gambling, gambling addiction and how the state deals with convicted pathological gamblers.

There must be something that can be done.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Roy D. Wright