April 19, 2012 in Features

Annie’s Mailbox: Uncle will likely gamble until he dies

Kathy Mitchell

Dear Annie: My 85-year-old uncle, a widower, spends several days a week at casinos. This is no penny-ante stuff. He gambled away everything he ever owned and had to move into subsidized housing.

He is somewhat fatalistic at this point, figuring he won’t live much longer and so he wants to have fun. While we recognize his right to spend his money as he pleases, bank statements indicate he is now using credit cards at the casinos. He has run up debt on at least three cards, making only the minimum payments to keep them active. He has no “estate” left to hold responsible for debts after his death and figures everything will be written off. He sees nothing ethically wrong with this.

So, who will get stuck paying for the $20,000 in credit card debt when he dies? Who pays for the selfishness of his addiction? Why do credit card companies continue to raise credit limits for people his age, and how do they not notice that his charges are almost exclusively coming from gambling institutions? The casinos are no help getting him to stop. They send buses to pick him up. Is there anything I can do? – Wish He Knew When To Fold ’Em

Dear Wish: If your uncle has no assets at the time of his death, the debt would likely be written off. He could arrange to have himself barred from entering casinos, but he obviously doesn’t want to be rescued from his addiction. Credit card companies are in the business of extending credit, and casinos are in the business of getting people to gamble. They aren’t going to be of assistance.

You can contact Gam-Anon ( gam-anon.org) for support, but understand that this becomes your problem only if your uncle gambles himself into destitution earlier than expected and you end up taking care of him. There’s no point to being angry and frustrated. You don’t have to admire your uncle, but you can learn to accept him as he is.

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