The decline and fall of Cecil Fielder

What an incredibly sad story this is. It’s about former Major League first baseman Cecil Fielder, father of hot prospect Prince Fielder, and how an addiction to gambling has ruined his life and his family’s life. It’s so bad, a process server gave papers to Prince Fielder as he was walking off the diamond after a game in Beloit, WI, because Cecil was impossible to find but was reported to be living with his son.

Something to think about:

On a February day in 1999, Cecil Fielder walked into the Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City just before noon, and filled out an application for credit.

Under “Income/Assets,” he included: “Salary — $5 million.”

Under “Other Casinos,” he listed a $100,000 line of credit at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

Trump extended Fielder a $25,000 line of credit. That money, plus whatever cash he had started with, lasted a day and a half.

Fielder requested, and was given, another $25,000 line of credit.

That was gone in two hours and 40 minutes.

The casino lent him $27,500 more.

That lasted less than 20 minutes.

The casino extended Fielder’s credit by another $50,000.

The minute-by-minute records stop there, but the file contains a total. By the time the binge was over, Fielder owed the Trump casino $580,000.


Trump officials, including Ford Palmer, vice president of casino operations, and Fred Cunningham, vice president for legal affairs, said they could not discuss the case — or a casino’s obligation, if any, when a patron may be out of control.

What is a casino’s obligation here? We hold bartenders responsible for continuing to serve people who are clearly drunk, something which I believe is on balance correct given the capability of a drunk person to get behind the wheel of a car and kill or maim innocent bystanders. Gamblers do not just hurt themselves – no one in the Fielder family is unaffected by Cecil’s problem – but it’s not usually a matter of life and death. It’s clearly the ethical thing for a casino to limit the credit of an out-of-control gambler (and given the Trump’s inability to collect on Cecil Fielder’s debts, it’s probably the prudent thing as well), but I’m not comfortable with a law to force them to do that. What do you think?

(Link via Eric McErlain.)

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5 Responses to The decline and fall of Cecil Fielder

  1. TP says:

    Geez. I just don’t get gambling. Maybe it’s b/c I’ve always sucked at card games, but I just don’t find the prospect of gambling even remotely exciting.

  2. William Hughes says:

    This is not the first time I’ve heard about something like this in sports. Leonard Tose, the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, lost a lawsuit in 1993 that claimed that in 1985, the Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City encouraged him to gamble while he was drunk to the tune of $10 million. In 1999, he testified before Congress that gambling had cost him between $40 and $50 million.

    I happen to like gambling, but I must be the world’s cheapest gambler. I spent a bit of my time in Las Vegas playing $1 blackjack and penny slot machines (yes, they do exist, folks). In fact, I spent six hours at a blackjack table and lost only $6 total. I also play the horses, but when I do, it’s always a $2 show bet.

  3. Greg Morrow says:

    Hell, yeah, I think casinos should be liable for not cutting off gamblers who are obviously having problems.

    In a society which values economic loss as highly as human life, this ought to be an easy argument to win. (The problem is, bankruptcy is already available to wipe out debt, and damages would probably be limited to the amount lost, so the court case would not be very effective in netting the plaintiff.)

  4. Norma Astourian says:

    I second that notion of the casinos being held responsible. I have been in Cecil’s shoes and have suffered in the same ways, much like my family has as well. I may not have lost millions like he has, but the money I lost is all relative to my life, so yes it is millions to me. The only difference between he and I is that he actually lost his family, which is the greatest reprocution for a gambler, and the most common. He and I are only two of the millions of INFECTED VICTIMS by this (UN)ACCEPTABLE DISEASE. I will leave you, the reader, to ponder this last statement and my choice of words. CASINO CANCER is the answer to balancing state budgets. Money for Man? There is no product liability in this case. 450,000 Michigan residents have been infected and addicted to this new form of revenueing. Where is thier JUSTICE?

  5. Jai Lancaster says:

    Casinos routinely close table games and disallow gamblers the opportunity to gamble further when the gamblers have won a certain amount of the casinos’ money. Since casinos have the right and obligation to limit their losses, I believe they should equally have the right and obligation to limit a gambler’s losses at table games. Slot machines and other mechanical gambling methods should not be included since there is usually no human interaction by casino workers in the gambling process.

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