In the hinterlands of Minnesota where Charles Lindbergh spent much of his childhood, there’s a spunky 78-year-old woman who’s affectionately known as “the gambling lady.” It’s a label that Little Falls’ Marcie Carper is more than happy to be accept.

The reputation is well earned. Marcie’s written numerous articles about compulsive gambling that have appeared in newspapers throughout central Minnesota. She’s also spoken frequently to various groups and audiences in an effort to educate people about an addiction that tends to be less understood in rural Minnesota.

Marcie understands gambling addiction better than most because she’s a recovering compulsive gambler herself. From her late 50s into her early 60s, she was unable to control her gambling. “I couldn’t understand what was happening, but all I knew is that I’d maxed out my credit cards and was running out of money,” says Marcie.

Marcie’s personal experience gave her special insight into just how powerful the addiction can be and how it’s not well understood. She learned about a treatment program from a friend in Duluth and decided to pursue counseling for problem gamblers. She then earned her certification and began training, and has been a gambling counselor since 1998.

After receiving her certification for problem gambling counseling in Duluth, Marcie was given the opportunity to go to Brainerd to start a program. When that grant ended she went to Northern Pines Mental Health Center in Little Falls and started a problem gambling program there.

Marcie provides individual counseling for people in the central Minnesota counties of Morrison, Todd, Wadena and Crow Wing. She provides assessments, referrals and treatment. Marcie encourages her clients to attend the closest formal treatment program in St. Cloud, when appropriate. If a client is in dire circumstances, Marcie will recommend they go to Vanguard in Granite Falls.

Unfortunately, her caseload in such a relatively unpopulated area does not allow for group therapy, something Marcie feels strongly about. “It can be a tough process in this part of the state because of the long distance people have to travel,” says Marcie. She encourages clients to attend Gamblers Anonymous so they can find others who can relate to the power of the addiction.

Marcie, who’s part of Northstar’s Speaker’s Network, a group that makes presentations to people all over the state to educate them about problem gambling, believes there remains a stigma with gambling addiction. “There are still a lot of different attitudes about gambling,” says Marcie. “People think that if there were no casinos then there’d be no problems. This addiction is still not well understood.”

At an age when others might spend time enjoying retirement, why does Marcie continue to work? “I’m very comfortable in this field and I enjoy working with people. If I can be there to help people understand problem gambling, provide counseling or guide gamblers to available resources, that’s important. This addiction can ruin your life, and it’s important to stop it before it wrecks it all the way.”