Gambler Talks About Disease That Turned Him Into A Felon

Sonny Seymour goes to Gamblers Anonymous four times a week. But he's still having a hard time putting the past behind him.

Wednesday in court, the Biloxi man tearfully apologized for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his bank to support a gambling habit. A day later, the tears were gone. But the pain caused by his illness wouldn't go away.

Before lunch, Seymour and his wife picked flowers with their grandchildren, so they could soak in life's beauty. The colorful scene in his yard was in stark contrast to the gloom caused by Sonny's gambling addiction. "Once I hit that casino door, I didn't notice anything," said Seymour, describing what he felt when he visited coast casinos.

Seymour nearly threw away his life, by throwing dice at area craps tables for almost a decade. "It was a super rush," Seymour said of the non-stop dice action. "It's something that got a hold of me, and grabbed me, and I didn't care about anything."

To get gambling money, Seymour maxed out his credit cards. And then in 1999, the People's Bank vice president devised another scheme to buy gambling chips. He started making up fictitious loans, so he could steal money from his employer. "I did the first loan, it went through the process and nobody else questioned it," he said.

Seymour eventually approved 162 loans to himself, before the bank caught him. "I know what I did was extremely wrong. And I've said that a number of times," he said.

Seymour lost $376,000 of the bank's money. Consequently, he lost his job. And on Wednesday in federal court, he lost two years of freedom. Seymour reports to prison on June 16. "I didn't think I would get caught in the first place," he said. Then, sounding like most gambling addicts, he said, "I thought I would still be able to hit the big one and be able to pay everything off and move on."

Judy Seymour often feels her family lost more than her husband did. According to her, "We lost our identities."

Mrs. Seymour is emotionally drained from this ordeal. She doesn't trust Sonny the way she once did. "Not completely. I still worry. He still doesn't trust himself," she said.

These days, her husband only keeps three dollars in his pocket. "I'm scared to go, or to get the urge to have money in my pocket," he said, "because I know where I would go."

What Mrs. Seymour does trust is her faith in God, and her commitment to marriage. Almost 32 years ago, Judy promised to love Sonny in sickness and in health. Gambling is his sickness. "In my eyes, it's more dangerous than a drug addiction or being an alcoholic," Mrs. Seymour said.

It's a disease that will force Sonny Seymour to spend two years away from his garden, and away from his family.

Mrs. Seymour would like to see casinos do more than simply post a compulsive gambling hot line number near their gambling machines. She'd like them to take a more active role in gambling addiction prevention. That way, a few more families could be spared the pain that her family is going through.