Since brother’s suicide, Ronda Hatefi has worked to raise awareness about problem gambling

Ronda Hatefi holds a picture of her brother, Bobby, a problem gambler who committed suicide in 1995.

Ronda Hatefi holds a picture of her brother, Bobby, a problem gambler who committed suicide in 1995., Sept. 28, 2014

It’s been nearly 20 years since Ronda Hatefi lost her older brother to his gambling addiction.

“(He) just needed everything to stop,” Hatefi said. “We talked about that just shortly before he died, he said ‘I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I’m not functioning, I don’t know how to make it stop’.”

She said her brother, Bobby Hatefi, struggled with a gambling addiction for about 4 years before he took his own life at age 28.

He would go to the bowling alley to play video poker after work. He told his sister it quickly became an obsession.

Ronda remembered her brother telling her, “I don’t do it because it’s fun, I do it because I have to, the paper I put into the machine isn’t money to me, it’s just paper to keep the game going and I don’t know how to get rid of it.”

After losing her brother July 20, 1995, Hatefi decided to use her brother’s story to educate people about gambling addiction.

“That’s who Bobby was, he was an involved person in our family that we all adored and gambling took that from us,” she said.

Shortly after Bobby’s death, she started the organization Oregonians For Gambling Awareness, and petitioned Oregon’s governor to proclaim September 29 as Problem Gamblers Awareness Day.

The state has honored the day for the last 19 years, and Hatefi said she’s found a way to celebrate her brother’s life.

“Because I think honestly (if) Bobby were standing here beside me today, I think he would stand up for this fight,” Ronda said.

Hatefi passes out leaflets to every place in the state that has video lottery machines, hoping they’ll put it on their machines. She said she wants people to know that there is help, and there is hope.

If you want to talk about a possible gambling problem or know someone who may need treatment, call 1-877-MY-LIMIT (695-4648).  Additional resources are listed below.

Are You a Problem Gambler?

The National Council on Problem Gambling and Gamblers Anonymous have different checklists; both are reprinted here.  Answering yes to one item on these checklists can indicate a problem, though they are not meant to substitute for a professional evaluation.

National Council on Problem Gambling:

1. You have often gambled longer than you had planned.

2. You have often gambled until your last dollar was gone.

3. Thoughts of gambling have caused you to lose sleep.

4. You have used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid.

5. You have made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling.

6. You have broken the law or considered breaking the law to finance your gambling.

7. You have borrowed money to finance your gambling.

8. You have felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses.

9. You have been remorseful after gambling.

10. You have gambled to get money to meet your financial obligations.

Gamblers Anonymous:

1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?

2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?

3. Did gambling affect your reputation?

4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?

5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties.

6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?

7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?

8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?

9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?

10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?

11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?

12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?

13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?

14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?

15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness?

16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?

17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?

19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?

20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

Help for anyone who thinks they might have a gambling problem

Oregon Problem Gambling Helpline: Free, confidential help.  Call 877-695-4648 or visit to talk, live-chat, text or email for referrals, answers and more. The service is open all days and hours; live chat runs 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays.

Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling: Washington residents can call 800-547-6133 all hours or visit

National Problem Gambling Helpline: Call 800-522-4700 all days and hours for resources and referrals.

Gamblers Anonymous: Call the organization’s hotline in Oregon and Washington at 855-2CALLGA (855-222-5542) and in Vancouver at 360-896-9602. Find resources and local meetings at

Gam-Anon: Family and friends of problem gamblers can find resources and a list of meetings at or 718-352-1671.

Counseling: Find an Oregon list of certified counselors by county at In Washington, go to and select type of services – counseling (outpatient treatment) or residential (inpatient treatment).