Thursday, February 11, 2016

Growing Up Gambling (Nebraska Public Television, 2014)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

After a half-hour rerun of the PBS News Hour on the New Hampshire primary, PBS ran a show that seemed to have been scheduled to tie in to the Frontline episode on sports betting (real or “fantasy”): Growing Up Gambling, which I assumed from the entry on the KPBS Web site to be a locally produced show about youth gambling. It was locally produced all right, but not in San Diego; in Nebraska, though the interviewees ranged from all over the Midwest, including a cute young man from the University of Ohio who dropped out in his freshman year (he was wearing a T-shirt he’d got from his high-school drama department for appearing in their student production of Arsenic and Old Lace, perhaps in remembrance of happier times in his life) because he’d become addicted to online wagering on the World of Warcraft multi-player video game. He had ended up $20,000 in debt, though as shocking as that number seems he got off easily compared to some of the other people in the show (the kid from Ohio was the only gambling addict interviewed who actually showed his face on camera), one of whom had lost $65,000 and another had lost nearly a quarter of a million and was facing having to declare bankruptcy … for the third time. This little show from Nebraska actually did a better job depicting the shame and terror of gambling addiction than the big New York Times-sourced Frontline documentary, and instead of futile attempts at prohibition what Growing Up Gambling induced you to support was more programs to treat gambling addiction as a disease.