Recovering gambler, former judge named to oversight panel for problem gambling

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 | 11:01 a.m. CST; updated 11:34 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 9, 2008

KANSAS CITY — A former municipal court judge in Kansas City who was convicted in a fraud scheme related to her gambling habit has been named to a state oversight panel for problem gambling.

The Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling says Deborah A. Neal will be its first voting member from the "recovery community'' of problem gamblers.

"I look forward to being an instrument of hope and healing for individuals, families and communities affected by problem and compulsive gambling and related potential consequences,'' Neal said in a prepared statement released by the Alliance.

In 2005, Neal admitted she funded her gambling habit by soliciting money from attorneys who practiced before her.

She pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud charge in connection with the improper loans and was sentenced to 28 months in federal prison.

Alliance chairman Michael Winter says there was a void on the board of those who were in recovery.

"It was important to have them represented and to hear their perspective,'' said Winter, also the executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. "It's my hope that Deborah will help to enlighten all of us on the Alliance about issues individuals in recovery deal with in their lives.''

Neal, the first African-American woman on the Kansas City bench, was appointed to the post in 1996 and served as presiding judge in 1999.

She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Steve Rinne, Alliance member and business development officer for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, said the Alliance chose Neal to represent the recovery community because of her perseverance and commitment to educating the public about problem gambling.

The Alliance was created in 1997 to educate Missourians on compulsive gambling and to refer troubled gamblers and their families to free treatment services through the state's 1-888-BETSOFF toll-free help line.

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