Gambling addiction: A young poker player agrees to give up the casino - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Gambling addiction: A young poker player agrees to give up the casino

Photo above: Poker cards and chips by VinG, Flickr Creative Commons License

Editor’s Note: The facts in a Capital News Service story that moved June 19 under the headline “Behind on His Rent, a Young Gambler Agrees to Give Up the Casino,” have been recanted by both the profile subject and the profile author. Months following the story’s publication, and after a CNS fact-checker corroborated the basic facts in the story before publication, the profile author and the profile subject have told CNS that all facts in the profile other than the subject’s name, occupation and city of residence are false. CNS retracts the story.


By Alex McGuire

Capital News Service


By the beginning of the year, eight months after the Maryland Live! casino opened its table games, Zach Quinn was four months behind on his share of rent and utilities for his Fells Point apartment.

He had to ask his parents if he could move back home. They agreed, with one condition.

“They said they’d let me move back in only if I went to some Gamblers Anonymous meetings,” Quinn said. It is something he had never thought would happen to him.

Quinn, 25, who works as an assurance staff member at a Baltimore CPA firm, used to play Texas Hold ’em and poker on weeknights, betting money with his roommates. His group of friends frequented Cross Street Market during football season and Mother’s Federal Hill Grille and Stalking Horse on weekend nights.

But when Maryland Live! opened its 122 table games in April 2013, Quinn and his friends started traveling down to the casino.

Alcohol fueled the action

Gamlbing logo part 3Plenty of bars were close by the tables, Quinn said, and the alcohol helped fuel his gambling momentum.

“Usually I’d go with some downtown friends and we’d all drink a good amount,” he said, “so that didn’t slow down my spending at all.”

Quinn says spending at the casino felt completely different from the spending at the Baltimore bars. Drink too much and you get physically sick and have to stop. But when spending at the casino tables, there was no signal to warn that you shouldn’t keep going.

When he hit the tables, Quinn said, he felt like he was just practicing a sport—not losing money.

“It was the kind of competitive feeling you get when you’re playing a pickup basketball game,” he said, “And when you lose, you just say to yourself, ‘We’ll get them next time.’”

Craving compulsiveness, burning through dough

He liked the risky atmosphere. “Sitting down at a card table and throwing $50 down makes you feel like you’re tangling with danger a little bit. The stupid part for me was that I craved that compulsiveness,” Quinn said.

He was spending more than he knew. “What surprised me was how fast it all happened. I had no idea how much important money I was burning through until moving back home.”

Card games such as poker and Texas Hold ’em mostly appeal to Quinn’s demographic—young, educated males—because they fall under the category of action gaming, which are games based on more skill than luck, according to Lia Nower.

Nower, the director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University, has researched gambling, substance abuse and other addictive disorders. She said young, energetic and college-educated males are more prone to choose action games because it gives them a rush.

“These games allow them to use their wits,” Nower said. But “even if you are a skillful player, you are going to lose more than you win typically.”

The addiction is strong, Nower said, and recovery usually involves slips. “It is usually two steps forward and one step back,” she said. “It only works when a person’s motivation to change is stronger than their motivation to gamble.

Gamblers Anonymous meetings

Nowadays, Quinn’s typical week consists of going to work and nothing else—except for his Gamblers Anonymous meetings on his Thursday lunch hour. His brother Joe, 26, an information technology analyst, sometimes goes with him to meetings.

“Going to any kind of ‘anonymous’ meeting has to be pretty uncomfortable,” Joe Quinn said, “but our parents make him go, so I try to tag along sometimes.”

Quinn misses the fun combination of drinking and cards and struggled the most when he first moved back home. He goes to the bars with his friends every once in a while but says he has not gambled a cent since moving out of Fells Point.

“Having to tell my friends I’m moving back with my parents was embarrassing,” Quinn said. “The more worse part was not telling my friends why.”

He eventually told his two roommates why he left. They said they understood.

“They just didn’t want me to become broke enough to the point where they’d feel they’d have to float me,” he said.

Now, on Saturdays, Quinn wakes up at about 9 a.m. to go grab fresh bagels for his parents. After breakfast, he hangs out around the house to see if there are any errands he can run or broken things to repair.

Going back home embarrassing

When he wasted his money, he says, that was his issue. He does not want to be a problem to himself or the people around him anymore. Now that he is back home, he wants to be an asset to his mother and father.

“Parents always know when their kid is in trouble, and I definitely was,” he said. “I owe them more than I can imagine.”

He is ashamed that he disappointed his parents when he had been an independent adult for three years.

“I knew they were thinking, ‘Here’s our 25-year-old son who isn’t responsible enough to live on his own,” he said. “That’s worse than having no money.”


About the author

Maryland Reporter is a daily news website produced by journalists committed to making state government as open, transparent, accountable and responsive as possible – in deed, not just in promise. We believe the people who pay for this government are entitled to have their money spent in an efficient and effective way, and that they are entitled to keep as much of their hard-earned dollars as they possibly can. Contact the author.