A psychologist who treats compulsive gamblers believes that even if Manager Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds has bet on the Reds, banning him from baseball would be a major error.
"I've never met this man," Rob Hunter said of Rose. "I have no idea if he's a compulsive gambler. If he is, I think it should be treated as an addiction. I think it would be criminal if they throw him out of baseball.
"Compulsive gambling is a recognized disease, it's as devastating a disease as any I've worked with and I've always worked with addictions. Treatment is a solution, not punishment."
Hunter is the clinical director of the Compulsive Gambling Program at Charter Hospital in Las Vegas.
Hunter said that compulsive gambling is similar to other addictions.
"It's a chronic disease that progresses, but it's a less chronic disease than the others," he said. "About . . . 4% of the gambling population is compulsive. Like drugs and alcohol, I think there is a psychological predisposition.
"About 25% of the people we treat have already made a serious suicide attempt before treatment. There is a denial aspect to compulsive gamblers as with other addictions. The disease makes sane people do insane things.
"Gambling becomes the centerpiece of a person's life, to the exclusion of everything else. Normal judgment in daily life becomes virtually impossible in the later stages of the disease."
Hunter said the typical compulsive gambler is a high-energy sort who is very competitive and throws himself into everything he does. And that, he said, is why the success rate for treated compulsive gamblers is generally higher than for other addictions.
"These guys are energetic, competitive types of people whose energy can often be channeled successfully in other directions," he said.
Hunter said compulsive gamblers don't necessarily spend all of their time gambling.
"I've seen compulsive gamblers who gamble two or three times a year," he said. "(But) they gamble to devastation. It has very little to do with money or winning or losing. There's no feeling. What it does is block feelings.
" . . . There's this component of 'My addiction's going to save me. I need one more win and I'm OK.' In fact, the opposite is often true, a big win can hurt more than a big loss. It's not necessarily a matter of money."