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Gambler blames Parkinson's for his addiction

Dr. Max Wells plans to sue casinos and drug maker to lessen his debt

Feb 24, 2006 | www.msnbc.msn.com

After gambling away $14 million, a retired physician from Austin, Texas, is making one last bet, that he'll recover his loss by suing casinos and the makers of his Parkinson's medication.

Dr. Max Wells says the drug company failed to warn patients that Requip and a similar drug called Mirapex could cause compulsive gambling.  He also says Las Vegas casinos, including the Wynn, Bellagio and Harrah's, share the blame because they let him gamble, even though they knew he was on the medication and compulsive about it.

Dr. Wells' attorney, Tom Thomas, joined Tucker Carlson, on ‘Sitiuation’ to discuss his client’s case.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, ‘SITUATION’:  Now, I understand that there's a likelihood that this medication did make your client compulsive about gambling; whether it made him a compulsive gambler is a different question.  Let's just say that right off the top.  I think it's possible.

TOM THOMAS, ATTORNEY FOR DR. MAX WELLS:  Yes, there are some studies.  Mayo Clinic published one in '05.  There's been one as recently as three weeks ago.  There's no doubt that in a number of these patients that they're compulsive gambling.

CARLSON:  Yes, I absolutely believe it.  But this guy lost $14 million.  OK.

THOMAS:  Yes.  His life savings.

CARLSON:  After about, say, a million dollars or $7 million or even, say, $10 million, why didn't he seek treatment?

THOMAS:  It wouldn't have made any difference if it had been $100 million.  If you've got a compulsion, you can't stop.

CARLSON:  Well, you can tell other people you have a compulsion.  Of course you can stop.  I know a million compulsive drinkers.  I know some compulsive gamblers who've stopped.  I mean, there are a lot of people with compulsions who either control them or turn to other people to help them control them.  Why didn't your client do that?

THOMAS:  Because he's taking a drug.  You can't control it when you're taking the drug that creates the compulsion.  You can only control it by stopping to take the drug.

CARLSON:  But he must have been aware that he was losing millions and millions and millions of dollars, correct?

THOMAS:  You know, he was aware of it.  But the compulsion overcame the feelings that you describe that most of us would have.  You're  importing or assuming and properly and understandably so a rational train of thought.  That's one of the evils of this particular problem, is it destroys rationality.  No rational person would squander $14 million in 10 months.

CARLSON:  There's no question your client's insane, whether it's the drug's fault or not.  Of course, you lose $14 million it's bad.

I'm just saying that people with compulsions to drink, to do drugs, to gamble, are not completely insane.  They understand they're destroying themselves, and that's why many of them reach out to other people to help them.  There is an element of free will in this disease, even if you're taking Parkinson's medication.  So why didn't he do that?

THOMAS:  There's not much of an element of free will when you're choosing between the only drug that will give you any normalcy in your life and a byproduct that you don't know is being created by that drug.

CARLSON:  I guess I'm not going to ask you for a fifth time why he didn't go to Gamblers Anonymous.  Why didn't his wife pipe up?  Apparently, the Las Vegas casinos treated them like the whales they were, and sent them on a cruise to Alaska, and gave them all kinds of comps.  She must have known.

THOMAS:  She didn't know how much.  If you've been to Las Vegas, you know wives don't gamble with husbands.  And he had his own—their money separately.  She didn't know.

CARLSON:  Did a casino send your client on a cruise to Alaska?

THOMAS:  They did.  She knew that they were gambling money.  She had no idea it was in the millions.

CARLSON:  OK.  Well, I'm sure she didn't.  But I mean, she couldn't have imagined she was being sent on a cruise because her husband was winning at the craps table, correct?

THOMAS:  I don't know what she imagined about that.  She's a high school math teacher.  I don't think she knows beans about it.

CARLSON:  She does now.

THOMAS:  She does now.  And in fact, it was her ultimate questioning that led to Max's seeking some help where he was taken off the drug.

CARLSON:  Wait.  Just to go back to something you said.  She's a math teacher you said?

THOMAS:  Yes, she's a math teacher.

CARLSON:  But not obviously, not a very good math teacher if she couldn't figure out that he was losing a lot of money.

THOMAS:  Now, that's not so.  You can't draw that conclusion if you don't know what's happening.

CARLSON:  Well, because your case rests on the notion that he is notand his wife, by extension is not in any way responsible for losing all this dough.  And I'm just suggesting that a math teacher and an aware human being might suspect that something was terribly wrong.

Where did the $14 million come from, anyway?

THOMAS:  He sold his practice when he had to retire because of the Parkinson's.

CARLSON:  Do you think there's any chance you're going to get this money back?

THOMAS:  Sure there's a chance I'm going to get this money back.

CARLSON:  From the casinos or from the drug company?

THOMAS:  Both.  The drug companies have an obligation to warn what they know about, if it's a threat, and they didn't do that.  If they would had warned him, like anybody else, or most other drugs, then he could have gotten the help or taken the steps that he ultimately did once the warnings came out.

CARLSON:  Finally, has any Las Vegas casino ever returned money to a person who claims he's a compulsive gambler?

THOMAS:  You know, I don't know the answer to that.  The ones that I do know about, the ones that went to final judgment, they did not.  I do know there have been several settlements where they have, in fact.

CARLSON:  Boy, if you win this, they're in deep trouble.

THOMAS:  No, they really won't be.  This is a very unique statute that we have in Texas that we're suing under.  This isn't just generally saying give the money back because X, Y and Z.  This is saying give the money back because we have a very specific statute in Texas that I think prohibits what happened here.  So I can't imagine this case would ever repeat itself.


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