Don't Bet House on Lifetime's Broke

Compulsive gambling gets the malaise-of-the-week treatment in Going for Broke, a Lifetime hankie-twister starring Delta Burke.

Indeed, the syndrome is growing. There are new casinos opening nationwide each month, plus state lotteries and Internet gaming — each a seductress for the self-destructive type. Statistics show that 20 years ago, about 5% of compulsive gamblers were women. With the increased availability, gambling is now an equal opportunity destroyer.

But that's about as much data as you'll get in this shallow tale, based on a real case that led to Nevada state legislation mandating warning postings in casinos about help for compulsive gamblers. Burke plays Laura Bancroft, a woman who seems to be in control of her life. She's uprooted her family from Florida to Reno, having been lured by a headhunter to work as a fundraiser for a children's charity. Her staff is receptive to rainmaking ideas for the organization.

Bancroft also has the support of trailing husband Jim (played by Burke's real-life spouse, Gerald McRaney), even though he's having trouble finding his desired job. Her two teens are loving and compliant, gazing at her affectionately when she rattles off her "shoot for the stars" lectures.

But the film tips its hand in the first frame, foreshadowing an inevitable downfall: the tale starts with an attempted suicide, then back tracks. The only question is how quickly her star will fall. Laura's chosen poison is video poker, to which she becomes addicted before she's even learned what a full house is.

It's only a matter of time before she's drained the accounts, pawned her kid's bikes, stolen from her family and embezzled from her job. Even a $50,000 jackpot doesn't sate her and she puts it all back in at $500 a hand.

At its best the film is serviceable. At its worst, it's reminiscent of the laughable "pink elephant" scenes in 50s B-movies about alcoholics. For instance, Laura while shopping for produce flashes to the slot reels when she sees the cherries and lemons. There's a little too much focus on the giddy thrill and not enough on the "why."

Going for Broke
debuts July 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.