A mayor lost $1 billion gambling with charity money sounds like a captivating headline. In discussing former Mayor Maureen O'Connor’s gambling addiction, however, one should remember that she was elected by thousands of people to be their city’s leader for six years. Could thousands of San Diego’s citizens have really misjudged the mayor who lost $1 billion of charity funds to gambling?
On Feb. 14, 2013, NBC News reported that “Former San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor acknowledged in federal court Thursday that she took $2 million from her late husband's charitable foundation to pay for her addiction to video poker — and lost $1 billion wagering over the course of a decade.”
San Diego’s former mayor lost $1 billion after having won more than $1 billion from 2000 to 2009 playing video poker in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and San Diego. The case presented by the prosecution claims that San Diego’s former 66-year-old mayor used more than $2,088,000 from the foundation that was started by her late husband, Jack-in-the-Box founder Robert O. Peterson.
Every story has more than one side to it and the less captivating headline to the story of the mayor who lost $1 billion by gambling is that former Mayor Maureen O’Connor is fighting a much more profound battle than just a court case.
San Diego’s 10News reports on Feb. 15, 2013, that according to court documents, Maureen O’Connor’s “’change of behavior with escalating gambling’ went hand-in-hand with the development of a slow-growing tumor in the part of the brain that affected her judgment and impulse control.”
After showing a local brain expert one of Maureen O’Connor’s brain scans, the brain expert commented that the tumor found in Maureen O’Connor’s brain was in an area that affected a person’s impulse control.
Gambling, which is considered by many to be a white-collar crime, can be more addictive than drugs or drinking. Since gambling appears to be less dangerous than drugs or drinking and does not have any physical symptoms, it unfortunately often goes unnoticed.
Whether the mayor who lost $1 billion gambling with charity money gambled away that money because of the loss of impulse control due to a brain tumor, the effects of a depression after the loss of her husband, or merely the fact that Maureen O’Connor became addicted to gambling, it might be helpful to remember that Maureen O’Connor was San Diego’s first female mayor and that thousands of people voted for her. Could they all have been so wrong?