Arnie Wexler, from gambling addict to social worker

stop slot machine
In 2014 the book All Bets Are Off by Sheila and Arnie Wexler was published. In it they tell their story in a very frank way about Arnie's gambling addiction. In addition to the story about the addiction and the long road to recovery, they describe in the book the various aid programs and the 12-step method.

The book is enthusiastically received by readers with gambling problems and their families. Experts are also impressed. Although they question some of the statements, particularly the semi-scientific comments.

Arnie Wexler

arnie wexler and wife

Arnie and Sheila Wexler

Arnie Wexler starts gambling at the age of seven. They are then children's bets on images on baseball cards, throwing heads or coins and games with marbles. His gambling game is gradually growing. A few years after the start, he started betting on sporting events. And not much later, shares are added.

His gambling behavior at that time, according to Arnie Wexler, stems from an inferiority complex. In his youth he has the feeling that everyone is better than him. Young Arnie Wexler only feels good when he has won, it doesn't matter what.

To win

Arnie Wexler still remembers his very first victory. On Wednesday, May 30, 1951, he goes to Roosevelt Raceway, a racecourse in New York. With a job after school he earns 50 cents per hour in that time, which earns him around 15 dollars a week. That Wednesday, 14-year-old Arnie wins $ 54, a few week salaries. After that night, he believes he is a winner and can become a millionaire through gambling.

He is going to gamble more. Too much to pay for with his job. He is going to steal to finance gambling. That starts small again with comic books in the local candy store. But soon he also steals from family and friends. He is then 17 and regularly takes the bus to the racecourse in the evening. Not much later he also goes by train to Maryland on weekends to gamble. At the time, Arnie Wexler mainly gambled in sports competitions.

Annual salary and salary

Around the age of 19, Arnie Wexler won $ 6,000 at the racetrack. At the time, that was equivalent to two annual salaries. It gives him the feeling of being invincible. The amounts with which he gambles are growing. He now works at a clothing company. He rewards the salary he earns there the same day he receives it. To be able to pay for his gambling, he steals clothes at the company where he works.

A short time later he meets his future wife. They decide to get married and they will both save for a party. Sheila, the woman with whom he has been married for 58 years, is indeed saving. But Arnie Wexler needs money to gamble. He wants to stop gambling after his marriage, he thinks looking back at that time, but he doesn't succeed.

From evil to…

Gambling is becoming a bigger problem. He borrows money and his debts are increasing. Arnie Wexler does have work. In addition, he even promotes to manager in a factory and he manages 350 people. But his gambling problem is taking serious forms.

Arnie concludes the earlier loans from more or less verifiable sources. He is 28 years old and borrows from colleagues, has loans from three banks and steals from his employer. But then he starts with illegal cases, including shady bookmakers. As a result, his debts continue to rise quickly.

Marriage and quit

At home there are now tensions and arguments every day. As a result, he is less and less at home. He hardly sees his daughters growing up. Even when he is home he does not see it, because his thoughts are with gambling. Arnie Wexler has a life insurance policy and regularly thinks he will end his life.

His wife died on February 2, 1968, after a miscarriage. He doesn't care, he wants to gamble. But deep inside him there is a voice that says he must stop. However, he recognizes that it will not work. Arnie thinks that he is the only one with a gambling problem.


A new director arrives at the factory. Arnie wants to take out a loan with him. But that conversation is different. "You have a gambling problem," the man says. He advises Arnie to seek help, "go to a twelve-step program. They help you with the money you owe. "

Arnie thinks they're going to pay his gambling debts. So he goes to the program. He still doesn't see himself as a problem gambler. But he does discover that there are many more people who have the same problems as him. On April 10, 1968 he finally made his last guess.

This obviously does not solve the problems. A long way follows. Arnie Wexler is gradually paying off his debts and improving the relationship with his wife and children. And he learns to cope with the urge to gamble, because it always remains.


Arnie will help other problem gamblers at some point. With his own experience as a baggage, he can do that with great conviction. Sheila works with him from her experience as the wife of a gambling addict. And they both also know the problems that still exist when gambling stops.

Arnie and Sheila are gradually becoming known and highly respected as caregivers. They give workshops and regularly appear in the media. Arnie is already a certified counselor for gambling problems (CCGC certified compulsive gambling counselor). Currently, Arnie is now 82, they still work as a consultant in gambling addiction.

All Bets Are Off

all bets are off book front

Cover for the book All Bets Are Off by Sheila and Arnie Wexler

Their All Bets Are Off will be published in 2014 with the story of Arnie and Sheila. Co-author Steve Jacobsen, who is primarily a sports journalist, rewrites their texts into a successful whole.

The book is praised for the integrity with which Arnie and Sheila share half a century of personal and professional experience. They tell the story without reserves. It is therefore a book in which problem gamblers and their partners will recognize themselves.

Professional care providers

Social workers who are currently involved in problem gambling are also enthusiastic about the book. But they warn that it is primarily a nice personal story. Arnie’s ideas about gambling problems and therapy are dated according to several experts. In addition, Arnie uses various generalizations, which are usually incorrect.

For example, Arnie writes that gambling problems are less serious than alcohol or drug problems. Several recent studies show that they are identical in many respects, for example in the brain functions. However, a gambling problem is much less visible. It therefore takes longer for the problem to be recognized, including by the environment, and it is more persistent.

The book

The personal and professional Arnie Wexler walk side by side in the book. The counselor in Arnie knows that the backgrounds of gamblers differ. But in the personal story he makes statements like "a compulsive gambler simply thinks that way." As if there is no difference.

The book must therefore be regarded primarily as a personal story. It is special to read both the story of the gambler and his partner. Arnie and Sheila show in expressing their thoughts and feelings that they live in two different worlds for a long time. For example, Arnie tells how he experiences his depression, at the beginning of the recovery when he has just stopped gambling. At Sheila you then read how she tries to find the strength to forgive him in the same period.

The double look at Arnie's gambling problem gives the book a special dynamic, especially since you know that it is not fiction.

Additional information:

  • The book is full of situations that will be recognizable for people who have also overcome a gambling or other addiction. For example, the comment that you never fully heal. Arnie tells how he started playing golf. At the second hole there was a sign that you could win a car at a hole-in-one. He started to shake and perspire. He was already good at golfing, but it went completely wrong on that two hole and he made a great airshot.
  • There are also various statistical data in the book and the 12-step program is explained.
  • An extensive impression of the book is available at Google Books
  • Another inspiring, personal book is "The Gambler’s Daughter" by Annette Dunlap. She tells how her childhood went with a gambling addict father. As a young girl, she learned to dismiss creditors on the phone, hid his emails from her mother and more. (Google Books)
  • Website of Sheila and Arnie Wexler and their facebook page
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