Madison Man Warns Of Gambling’s Dark Side

Millions of people will fill out NCAA basketball tournament brackets over the coming days. For most, the exercise will be mainly for fun or for small wagers with co-workers.

But one Madison man has a warning about gambling’s dark side.

When gambling ceases to be a recreational hobby, letting the chips fall where they may may not turn out so well. For Robert McGuigan, that’s exactly what happened.

This week is the start of the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, otherwise known as March Madness, also otherwise known as the second biggest betting time of the year.

But McGuigan’s love for March Madness and for other sports will never be the same after what he’s been through.

“I’ve really tempered myself in terms of the game,” said McGuigan, adding, “It started with video games. And it went from video games to internet gaming to internet gambling.”

“It just went too far.”

McGuigan said he had no idea gambling could turn into an addiction.

“I learned it too late. I didn’t learn it until after my son’s death,” said McGuigan.

“This is my son Jason, and these are the other two young men who were with him the day they were murdered by a 19-year-old university student who was addicted as well to gambling,” said McGuigan while displaying three photographs.

A bet on a game — one that Jason never actually placed — got him killed.

Since that day in 2003, a lot has changed for Robert McGuigan.

ESPN interviewed him for his story, and he;s also told his tale in every school and at every convention that will have him.

“I’ve talked to thousands and thousands of kids, and not as many as I need to,” said McGuigan. “But if you save one, that’s well worth it.”

“It’s my way of honoring my son and not letting his life go in vain.”

It’s was a gamble just to take the father and son story public.

But McGuigan said the gamble has paid off.

“This has really touched me big time, these letters,” said McGuigan, looking through correspondence. “They put tears in my eyes.”

But this time of year, the tears sometimes come back all by themselves.

“This is reality. That’s what can happen. These three young men are dead over a bet. Senseless,” warns McGuigan.

McGuigan now preaches to do everything in moderation, including betting on sports.

If you or someone you know may have a gambling addiction, the number to call is the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-GAMBLE-5. Counselors there can refer callers to a number of helpful resources.