Picks and Pans Review: Lucky Number

updated 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (check local listings)


Good Morning America's Charles Gibson hosts a sturdy, slightly overstuffed study of compulsive gambling, a disorder that has exploded over the past 15 years. The show makes a good case for the fact that this behavior is as addictive as any narcotic. Lured by casinos, state lotteries, racetracks or sports betting, many people become completely consumed with wagering and are unable to stop—in fact may accelerate their betting—as the dire consequences to their lives mount. The most celebrated instance noted here is that of baseball great Pete Rose, who, after repeated denials, finally conceded he had a problem.

We listen to the testimony of experts in the field, to the desperate experiences of active and recovering compulsive gamblers, and go inside a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. One man recounts tucking a radio under the pillow so that he could surreptitiously follow the ball game while making love to his wife.

Though it gets lost in a dull debate about the gaming industry's responsibilities to its patrons, the program presents several startling statistics. There are as many as 5 million compulsive gamblers in this country: 96 percent started gambling before they were 14. By profession, lawyers are the most affected, but women and teenagers are the most rapidly growing groups.

The NFL has just dictated that the networks and ESPN must suspend all point-spread touting in their pregame shows next season. While that's a nice image-stroking gesture, 5 will get you 9 that this injunction won't make a dent in the gambling epidemic.

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