Review of “All Bets Are Off”
This is the title and cover of the book about Arnie and Sheila Wexler written by them, along with Steve Jacobson. Arnie and Sheila have helped so many compulsive gamblers and their families to recover from the devastation of compulsive gambling, as well as written training manuals to train casino workers on recognizing a problem gambler. Arnie and Sheila have been in their respective recovery programs for over 47 years and reading their story is just amazing.
Going back to the beginning of Arnie’s gambling, the reader can see how his love of sports quickly evolved into enjoying the sport because of the rush he felt while “in action.” He loved horse racing and spent countless hours at the track. When he wasn’t at the actual track, his mind was still on the upcoming action and how to get more money. He had the ability to charm people into loaning him money, he was collecting kickbacks from vendors through his job, and lying to everybody- all to keep him going. His first date with Sheila (when he was 21 and she was 16) was to a drive-in to see Damn Yankees and the second was to a racetrack. However, as Sheila writes “I never had another date with him unless it was a sports event, a racetrack, or a casino night- except for an occasional Broadway show.” There were many naysayers that tried to convince Sheila NOT to marry Arnie, knowing that he was a compulsive gambler and her life would be hell. However, she loved him and believed that after they married, everything would be different and Arnie’s gambling would come to a halt because he had promised to quit when they were married. The book continues to share about the first seven years of their marriage and it was bad. I don’t want to take away from their stories, so I will just say that as a recovering compulsive gambler myself, reading this book was an interesting experience. Interesting because I related to Arnie’s behaviors when I was in action and I felt really bad for Sheila and what she experienced. It wasn’t just the lies and lack of money that Sheila experienced – it was the fights, the absence of Arnie at crucial moments in their marriage, the loss of her self-esteem and constantly making excuses to their family and friends. Sheila poignantly describes the suffering and pain that she went through those first few years of marriage and through it all, she never stopped loving Arnie. As both Arnie and Sheila tell it, even after both came into recovery they still had their share of issues to overcome related to anger, resentments, and doubts of whether their marriage would survive.
“All Bets Are Off” describes their efforts in helping other compulsive gamblers and their families- how they got started in the counseling business and their continuing advocacy efforts. One of the stories that Arnie talked about was when he was Chairman of the Board for the New Jersey Council for Problem Gambling and he was in the running for the paid position of Executive Director. One of his competitors for the position was asked what type of fundraising events he would run and he said “Run a raffle”. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job and Arnie became the Executive Director. One of his proudest accomplishments was (with the help of, then speaker of the New Jersey assembly, Chuck Hardwick) to mandate that all casino advertising would have to include the helpline’s phone number 1-800-GAMBLER.
Arnie and Sheila have been tireless and relentless in traveling the United States and many other countries to speak to schools, churches, organizations, and professional sports teams about the dangers of compulsive gambling. They are two very loving and caring individuals and I just hope that other compulsive gamblers and their family members will take the time to read this amazing story. I highly recommend the book and having read it, I came away with a keener understanding and insight of what the family member’s experience was like. It is my hope that this book will serve as a valuable resource to both the compulsive gambler and their family members to show that there is hope, help, and many resources available to them.