Recovering gambling addict warns of expanding access

Michael Burke remembers what it's like to be a slave to the spinning slot wheels.

"It is the anticipation of the hit," he said. "It's not so much the hit itself."

His addiction cost him $30,000 a year until he turned himself in for stealing $1.6 million.  He spent three years in jail and now helps recovering gamblers in Michigan and speaks nationwide.

"The chains of addiction are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken," he said.

As he watches Florida come closer to allowing craps, roulette, and sports betting, he warns of increased avenues to feed the addiction.  

"There is going to be a price paid, and Florida better be willing to pay that price right upfront," said Burke.

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, which does not take a position on actual policy changes, cites more problems with personal finances, domestic abuse, and divorce.  

The council says it's already getting four times as many calls for help as 20 years ago.  

The gambling compact agreed to by the governor and Seminole tribe calls for the tribe to carry on existing prevention programs, including contributing $250,000 a year per facility to the council on compulsive gambling, and marketing ways to get help.

"They always do more than what is required," said Kruse. "They have supported this issue when there was no requirement to do so."

With two percent of people expected to be problem gamblers, the council says that could mean over 200,000 Floridians could be more susceptible to losing it all.  

Burke says he's the proof.

"After what I did to my family, it would be so hypocritical if I ever went back to gambling."