“God, I am so sick. Please help me,” 31-year-old Jerry Prosapio
pleaded as he hung precariously over a gaping hole of gambling
At nine years of age, Jerry’s taste for risk began with penny-ante poker
games in the basement. In high school, he was a sports bookie. After he
graduated from high school, his parents took him to the horse track. His dad
put $2 down for him, and Jerry walked out with $80 — his first big win.
He was hooked for the next 14 years. At age 28, Jerry married Pat and promised
no more gambling, but, like many addicts, he lied and sank deeper into the
hole. He became a high roller, also doing drugs and drink, and maxed out 17
Pat had just given birth to their first baby, Brian, when in desperation,
Jerry borrowed money from the Mafia. When they came to collect, Jerry’s
fragile world finally collapsed.
“Tell Jerry that Brian has a beautifully shaped head and that I stopped
by to see him,” a Mafia visitor told Pat. Terrified by the threat to his
family, Jerry confessed his addiction and begged God for help.
“It was the first time in my adult life that I was totally
With God’s help, he escaped his addiction. He trusted in the Lord Jesus
Christ as King and Saviour, and today he is the co-founder of Gambling Exposed
(gamblingexposed.org), a Christian ministry for parents,
churches and youth groups about the dangers of gambling addiction.
Millions of grade-school
kids just like Jerry have become hooked on gambling. They often begin gambling
between the ages of 10 and 13. Four out of five adolescents have gambled in
the past year, according to the Annenberg Risk Survey of Youth.
A federal commission estimated that 7.9 million adolescents in the United
States are problem gamblers. Clearly, gambling is not innocent entertainment
for children; it’s a gateway to addiction.
Gambling is usually a
hidden addiction, so parents must watch for clues, such as:
- money or valuables missing from the home
- excessive cash or an unexplained need for money
- unusual credit card charges
- sudden interest in sports, scores, point spreads
- withdrawal from friends and family
- depression, anxiety, sleeplessness
- missed classes or a decline in grades
- excessive or unusual phone calls
- excessive, unexplained time at neighbors’ homes or on the Internet
How to help
If you suspect your child
has a problem with gambling, implement the three C’s:
CONFRONT. Have an honest conversation with your child. Admitting his problem
will provide tremendous relief because he will no longer shoulder the burden
CONSOLE. Just as Christ loves us, we must affirm our unconditional love for
our children. Forgive, and ask God for guidance.
COUNSEL. Seek help for your child immediately. You can call Focus on the
Family’s Counseling department at 719-531-3400 ext. 7700 and ask to
speak to a counselor.
Remember: Parental approval or disapproval remains the strongest influence in
a child’s life.
Courtesy Focus on the Family