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Mayor Soderquist’s Gambling Addiction

Gambling and The Position of Political Power.

gambling is a way of power but leading to addiction
Mayor Soderquist gambles away embezzled money.

B. Lenz

Lake Station, Indiana, Mayor Keith Sonderquist and his wife, Deborah Sonderquist, have been federally indicted on 11 counts related to missing food pantry and campaign cash.

Meanwhile Deborah’s daughter, Miranda Brakley, had her own federal indictment for pocketing at least $5,000 of the city’s cash and $37,182 in unapproved leave payments during her term as a city employee, gambling her position as a city employee. Worse, on her last day, $15,880 in missing bond payments were found in a box in her car, which she claimed was an accident.

And one more separate indictment for the Soderquists was filed for allegedly helping Brakley avoid apprehension, knowing she was wanted for the five grand missing from city court. Brakley’s also accused of making a false bankruptcy declaration by failing to disclose city payments totaling more that $7,000.

The Severity of The Disease

Can you say nepotism? Deborah worked for the city as her husband’s administrative assistant. She also is the treasurer of her husband’s election campaign committee. How convenient. The family that plays together… well, is in a lot of trouble just now.

Any photos I’ve seen of the family show them as down-to-earth. Nothing flashy. No extravagant wardrobes or other trappings of wealth. The amount of money the Mayor and his wife are supposed to have taken is in the thousands. But there’s nothing to show for it.

That’s because, presumably, the casinos got most of that money. An article in The Times of NWI outlines losses of $104,000 at local casinos while the pilfering was going on. In three years they took $18,500 from the campaign account – a perk of having your wife as treasurer, perhaps. Then there’s the piddly $300 check from the city to the food bank, which was cashed just a couple hours before the couple was seen gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., said authorities.

That wasn’t the only time food bank money was involved, although the couple claim those allegations are false. The many times and amounts of money taken – embezzled – from both sources are too numerous to itemize here, but most of them coincide with trips to casinos. Then there’s shady dealings with a $10,000 contribution from an unknown source – cashed in separate amounts and in different places to avoid having to account for the money. There are problems with tax forms and election forms.

It’s common knowledge that the couple spent an “extensive” amount of time at the casinos, says an addendum above the headline story. The same newspaper had another a teaser at the top stating a winner at the Horseshoe Casino was beaten and shot. And a few weeks ago it was all over the news that Chicago is considering building a huge casino.

It’s become almost daily news in my area to read about who has been charged with embezzling money from whom – bosses, sports teams, charities, you name it. Some lose their pensions. Some go to jail. I don’t recall that being so much of a problem before we were graced with the presence of several casinos within driving distance from my area.

Gambling Addiction Symptoms

Gambling is an addiction. In the field, we call it a process addiction, meaning instead of a substance, it’s a behavior that one gets hooked on – literally. Even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has finally acknowledged that gambling has a lot more in common with other substance addictions then it does with, say, an anxiety-relieving compulsion or personality disorder.

For gambling addicts, it’s about that reward, the anticipation, and the tolerance that also builds, meaning the behavior has to be done more and more to produce similar gratification. The behavior produces a euphoria by releasing all that dopamine when engaged in the activity. In time comes the need, the compulsion, to do it over and over, no matter what the consequences.

I’d say the Sonderquists are the poster children for gambling addiction. The deeper they were entrenched, the more daring they became in their deceptions. Just like any other addicts.

Once addicted to gambling (or sex, or gaming, or other process addictions), an addict’s brain eventually loses the ability to get the same euphoria, awash in too much dopamine for too long. The brain desensitizes. The recklessness and impulse control exhibited by those addicted – to anything – comes to play for the gamblers as well.

More and more risks keep the stimulation level high for awhile, but eventually that isn’t enough. There can never be enough. Just like all addictions, as it grows, addict’s lives, money, health and good sense are all consumed. Imagine the addiction as a sink-hole that devours everything, ‘cause that’s how it is. Always.

Gambling Addicts Suffer Withdrawal

There are actually withdrawal symptoms. Physical symptoms, like sweating, restlessness and irritability. The preoccupation. The lying. The willingness to go to any lengths to continue, including illegal activities, are all there. It’s chasing the original high, which never comes again in quite the same way.

Loss of control is inevitable. Understanding more about compulsive gambling has helped scientists to understand addiction in general more clearly. And newer drugs that have proven helpful for substance addictions show promise for gambling addictions as well.

The case of the Sonderquists is a tragic example of the consequences of this type of addiction. What must be worse – the physical and monetary consequences, or the public humiliation and loss of livelihood? I once knew a man who had retired and developed such a gambling addiction that he ran through his whole retirement in a couple of years and had to get another full-time job, while his wife held two, just to stay afloat.

I’ve watched two ladies in their 80s get in a physical fight over a machine that one turned away from long enough for the other to put her money into it. How many wives have cried when they found their husband’s had lost their whole check on payday? I’ve seen that, too. The tragedy is that it’s not the people who can afford it that are vulnerable so much as those of modest means who are hoping for a windfall to solve their lifes problems.

How To Win Against Gambling Addiction

There is help for gambling addicts. Some casinos train employees to watch for problem gamblers and those who recognize their addiction can have themselves barred, but hitting bottom can devastate those least able to afford it. There’s gamblers anonymous. There are treatment centers able to deal with this type of process addiction, but the one in trouble has to want help, just like any other addict. It’s sad to see people going to prison over something that they didn’t see coming.

It’s terrible what happened in Lake Station. Nobody wins in that situation. More casinos means more of these type of crimes. As a solution to economical woes, adding casinos comes with a steep price. I see them as devastating communities, rather than saving them. Casinos and other forms of gambling are designed to make a profit, so the odds are not so positive for those who do it chronically. I’m hoping there won’t be any more casinos then there already are. Too many otherwise honest folk are the casualties.

The fate of the Sonderquists remains to be seen. People in the community have been donating to the food bank.

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