Maureen O'Connor, former mayor of San Diego, spent over a billion dollars in casinos over the last decade, including $2 million that belonged to a charity created by her late husband. According to the New York Times:
A former mayor of San Diego spent the last decade wagering more than a billion dollars at casinos across the country, eventually liquidating her savings, auctioning her belongings, selling off real estate, borrowing from friends and taking more than $2 million from a charity set up by her late husband, a fast-food tycoon.
The former mayor, Maureen O’Connor, 66, blamed an addiction to gambling aggravated by a brain tumor for the gargantuan spree. Her lawyers said that while she had made well over a billion dollars in bets at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and San Diego, her actual net losses were around $13 million.
Federal prosecutors said it was impossible to know precisely how much Ms. O'Connor had lost over those years, but she emerged with her fortune gone and her health shattered. She took out second and third mortgages on her La Jolla, Calif., home to pay for the gambling.
Ms. O'Connor is by no means the only high-profile individual whose fortunes have been ruined by gambling. In 2007, businessman Terry Watanbe lost nearly $127 million in Las Vegas, miring him in personal debt and criminal charges for unpaid gambling debts.
Locally, Gabe Macaluso, who was the CEO of HECFI and ran Hamilton Place, the Hamilton Convention Centre, and Copps Coliseum, lost over $500,000 - and his job - after a series of losses at Casino Niagara:
A lawsuit says former Copps Coliseum boss Gabe Macaluso led a double life as a business executive on the one hand and a compulsive gambler at Casino Niagara, above, on the other.
A high-profile Hamilton official who lost his job to a gambling addiction is suing the Ontario government and Casino Niagara for allegedly sending a limousine to take him back to the blackjack tables following a $500,000 loss.
Gabe Macaluso, former chief executive of Copps Coliseum, Hamilton Place and the Hamilton Convention Centre, lost $1-million over five years while he suffered what he calls a "secret, pathological" addiction to gambling.
Mr. Macaluso joins a small but growing number of recovered gambling addicts in Ontario and Quebec who have filed lawsuits demanding government-run casinos stop them from ruining their lives.
Mr. Macaluso filed the $3-million lawsuit at Hamilton's Superior Court last week, naming the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., which oversees the province's $2-billion gambling industry and Falls Management, the company that runs Casino Niagara. The allegations remain to be proven in court.
As head of Hamilton's city-owned entertainment complexes, Mr. Macaluso dined with celebrities such as Celine Dion, Elton John, Shania Twain and Bono from U2. He earned a six-figure salary, had the use of a company car and regularly jetted off to meetings in Milan, Hong Kong and Paris. An active community member, he was elected a trustee for the Catholic school board and attempted a run at provincial office.
"I had it all," he said. "It all came crashing down on me."
Macaluso eventually became suicidal, but was fortunately saved by the intervention of a close friend, Peter Mercanti:
A lifelong friend, Peter Mercanti, intervened, dragging Mr. Macaluso away from the casino and sitting him down at a diner in the middle of the night to talk him out of killing himself.
His friend outlined a plan for Mr. Macaluso to consolidate his debts under bankruptcy protection and enter treatment.
He immediately enrolled in a 10-day outpatient program at a private clinic and started attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
In an interesting twist, Peter Mercanti's company, Carmen's Inc., just won the bid to manage the Hamilton Convention Centre, and with his son PJ Mercanti and other partners is seeking to open a casino in downtown Hamilton.
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