Clearly Schlichter was a naive gambler. According to a law-enforcement official, Schlichter once went to a bookie to collect some rare winnings and was told, "Oh, we scratched that game from the board." Schlichter just nodded acquiescence and left, unaware of the obvious fleecing.
Compulsive gambling has only recently been put in the same category with other addictions, such as alcoholism. It is also now categorized as a behavior disorder. Robert M. Politzer, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Pathological Gambling in Mount Wilson, Md., says, "For the pathological gambler the addiction is to the action. He's attracted by the ambiguity of the outcome of the game. He's totally consumed by it."
How pervasive compulsive gambling is in the U.S. is unknown, although the New York-based National Council on Compulsive Gambling thinks that as many as 10 million Americans "not only risk more money than they can afford, but go on to gamble compulsively, without control." For such people, a slogan such as the one used by New York's Off-Track Betting Corp.—"Bet with your head, not over it"—does no good.
Schlichter had been a prime suspect as a big bettor with Columbus bookies ever since he enrolled at Ohio State in 1978. However, it now appears that while rumors of Schlichter's free spending with bookies were common, no law-enforcement agency ever latched on to any more than rumors. Lieut. Dave Dailey, head of the Columbus Police Department's Organized Crime Bureau, says, "We suspected he was betting and we still think he was, but we were never able to substantiate it with one shred of evidence." Eyebrows were raised when Schlichter was seen often at local horse tracks, and they arched further when he was spotted with Columbus bookie Frank Hook. "There was a lot of guilt by association," says Dailey, "but that was it."
One effort by Columbus police to "catch" Schlichter, an All-America as a sophomore at Ohio State, involved a police informant who posed as a bookie at an East Side restaurant, the Kahiki. Dailey says a bartender started betting with the informant and told him he "had some action from Schlichter" he wanted to get down. Those bets were accepted. Subsequently the informant told the bartender, "Have Schlichter see me. I like to take my action direct." The bartender said he would pass the message; Schlichter never appeared. "So," says Dailey, "we couldn't learn whether Schlichter was really betting or if the bartender was just blowing smoke." Further, says Dailey, while an estimated 40 bookies were busted during Schlichter's career at Ohio State, never once did Schlichter's name appear in the confiscated books—although the names of numerous other prominent citizens did.
Indeed, Chester says the only documented dealings Schlichter had with a bookie came early in his Buckeye years when he was approached by a bookie seeking information. Schlichter reported the contact to his coaches, who in turn informed the FBI.
Those days at Ohio State were far more innocent, if not truly innocent, but these days find Schlichter with a long and complicated road back. Chester says that his client will "pay back all his legal debts, to the extent he can." For now, however, the question for Schlichter is the extent to which he can control his own destructive impulses.