Author Sandra Adell talks about gambling addiction
True Confessions
Sandra Adell wrote about her
experiences with slot machine
By Jonathan Gramling

Part 1 of 2

      Dr. Sandra Adell, a professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison, is an actress and model. She has posed for many a print advertising campaign. She
didn’t believe in gambling, almost turned her nose up to those who did. In fact, she even posed
for some casino and Wisconsin Lottery ads. But she went right in and left right out after the
cameras were turned off. The stale, smoke-filled air, the bright flashing lights and constant noise
were a turn-off to her. It was something beneath her … Or so she thought.
      In 2005, a perfect storm of sorts happened in Adell’s life: a failed relationship, reoccurring
issues about her childhood and the need to make up a little economic shortfall if she were to
take a break from teaching that summer. A friend invited her to go up to the Ho-Chunk Casino for
an afternoon of fun. “I won some money,” Adell said during an interview with The Hues. “It’s
called ‘The Early Win.’ I felt embarrassed because I had won money. I was essentially using the
money I had won to win more money. I became embarrassed because I was in a place where
people are very poorly paid and throwing away more money than they probably make in a week.
That was one of the things that bothered me. Seeing the elderly in these places, spending and
spending at the slot machines, made me sick.”
      For the next several years, Adell descended into a pattern of boom and bust at the slot
machines. And as she began to get sucked into the world of bright lights and sound, she began
to write to figure out what was happening to her. What began as a sort of diary to help her figure
out what she was experiencing turned out to become her recently published book “Confessions
of a Slot Machine Queen.”
      Adell’s book is part self-examination and part research into what is behind the success of
casino gambling. As she began thinking about writing the book, Adell read Barbara Ehrenreich’s
book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” It inspired Adell to look at the economic impact of slot machine gambling.
     “I felt there was something going on here,” Adell said. “It must be the spaces. It must be the design of the casino because you
know there are no windows and no clocks. All of the casinos are designed in such a way to rid you of your money. Now the greatest
amount of revenue comes from the slot machines, about 65-70 percent of what casinos earn. It’s not the table games. I began to look at
who was behind, who was backing some of the casinos, especially the commercial casinos. It’s very hard to find out what is going on
with the Indian casinos because they are sovereign. They don’t have to tell you anything. I started looking for and researching the
amount of money casinos were making and how much they were giving to the states. There was a rational part of me trying to do some
research on the gambling industry, but part of it was to try and figure out what was happening with me.”
      As an actress and model, Adell was used to portraying things that did not relate to her personally. With Confessions, Adell has
opened up her personal life for public scrutiny for the first time. And while the prospects of people knowing some of these things about
her personal life is a little unsettling to Adell, she felt compelled to write the book because of what she saw happening to people who
were under the spell of slot machine gambling.
      “If you look at what happened after Hurricane Katrina, the casinos were rebuilt very quickly,” Adell said. “It is ironic that around
Biloxi what happened was that after Hurricane Katrina, legislation was quickly drafted up so that the casinos could be land-based. Don’
t forget that they were on barges before Hurricane Katrina. Then they changed the laws so that the casino owners could build those
casinos on land. They went up very quickly. And then the first couple of years after Katrina, they made a lot of money. It’s shameful
because you had people still living in the FEMA trailers and so forth. But what was going up were the casinos. And who was going
there? Local people were going there because they didn’t have anything to do. They said they were bored. There was a sense of
desperation and they went in there to hit that jack pot.”
      There have been many cases of celebrities like Gladys Knight, Charles Barkley and John Daly who have lost a lot of money to
gambling addictions. It doesn’t seem to make a big splash because one would assume that they have the money to gamble. But that isn’
t necessarily so. “Gladys Knight got caught up in the gambling and ended up out in Las Vegas paying off her debt by singing,” Adell
said. “She had to work in the clubs. She had a serious gambling addiction.”
      But it is the working poor people who are the biggest focus of Adell’s concern, the ones who don’t have the resources or talent to
bail themselves out. “When I went to the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Indiana, I was looking around to see how old the people
were and how poor they were,” Adell said. “And they were all at the slot machines gambling. So I realized there was a storey there that
I needed to tell because people need to be made aware of what is happening to our communities when we allow the legislators who
don’t gamble to say this is good for our economy. People are losing their livelihoods. I asked that question at the Blue Chip one time.
How many of these people were among the 47.5 million Americans who don’t have health care insurance and they are gambling?”
Next issue: The negative economic development impact of gambling

      On Saturday, February 27, 2 – 4 p.m., Sandra Adell will be launching her new book Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen at the
South Madison Library, 2222 S. Park Street. Refreshments will be served. Adell will be donating part of the proceeds from each book
sold to the building fund of the new South Madison Library.