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Before Kathy Bordner, 44, starts a GA meeting, she pulls out a book to pass around for attendees to sign in. As the book makes its way around the two dining tables, the members sign their name next to the date of their last bet. By her name, Bordner signs 5-13-10. Three days after that, according to documents filed with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, Missoula police received a call from the UPS Store on Brooks Street reporting suspicions that Bordner had been embezzling large sums of cash from the business.
“I seriously can tell you how many casinos are on any street in Missoula,” Bordner says.
Her eyes sometimes well with tears as she recounts how she went from carrying a steady job to felony charges, but she says she wants to share her story so that others may learn from her mistakes.
Bordner had always gambled off and on without issue up until around 2008. Wanting to fit in with a new social group, she says she started going out drinking with them at the casinos around town. She would hang out and drink with her new friends, but would always stay behind to gamble at the machines. She slowly got hooked. Nearly everything she did was designed around gambling and chasing the fleeting rush that came from every occasional win.
“It’s like when you win you get a hot flash from your feet to your head. I don’t know how else to explain it,” Bordner says. “I would go to Wendy’s before I would go gamble because I knew when I was done gambling I’d be broke.”
Many times, Bordner says, she would write hundreds of dollars in checks to a casino in one night. Sometimes, she says she saw staff holding checks for other gamblers behind the counter, allowing them to buy the checks back at the end of the night depending on their winnings. According to the Montana Gambling Control Division, check holding is a form of credit gambling, and is illegal.
Back at the GA meeting at Valor House, Pamela says staff at some local casinos would let her buy her checks back before she stopped gambling more than two years ago. Rules were bent as long as she developed a rapport with the staff. “Once they got to know me, it wasn’t a problem,” she says.
Around 2008, Bordner says she began stealing from work in order to spend the cash on video gaming machines. In July 2010, Bordner confessed to a Missoula Police detective that she had indeed been changing the deposit slips at UPS to cover up money she had stolen over the years.
According to charging documents, Bordner tearfully told the detective that her gambling addiction drove her to steal from the business, and that she had also borrowed money from friends all while trying to hide her problem from her husband.
According to the forensic accountant’s estimate in the charging documents, Bordner had embezzled almost $39,000. She pleaded guilty to one felony theft charge, a fraction of the alleged total, but made Alford pleas to the rest, meaning she did not admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict her.
When she was sentenced in early 2012, Bordner received two six-year sentences for two felony theft charges. All but 30 days were suspended, and she was ordered to spend that time in the Missoula County Detention Facility. While locked up, unable to go outside and not allowed to take showers alone, Bordner says she battled depression and panic attacks. She tried unsuccessfully to have her jail sentence commuted to house arrest.
“One day would have been enough for me. I was so scared,” she says. “For the first two weeks I basically hid under the stairway and cried.”
In the time following her release from jail, Bordner has received counseling for gambling in Missoula and has taken opportunities to share her experiences with others. She occasionally gives talks to classes at the University of Montana and Hellgate High School, and eventually came to lead her own GA group in Missoula. Bordner feels as though she is on the upswing and on top of her addiction, but wary of the fact that the need to gamble could sneak up on her at any time.
“I thought I was a bad person,” she tells GA attendees. “And now I know I’m not a bad person. I just made a piss-poor decision.”