‘Poker was like being in a trance’: readers’ experiences of problem gambling

We asked you to share your experiences of problem gambling. Here’s what some of you said
Poker was like being in a trance'- readers' experiences of problem gambling

Problem gambling costs the UK up to £1.2bn according to a report by charity GambleAware, with spending related to police intervention, mental health services and homelessness putting pressure on the system.

The charity warned of the “narrow” focus on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), known as the “crack cocaine of gambling,” and called on the government to do more to combat online betting.

We asked readers to share their personal experiences of problem gambling. Here’s what some of you said.

‘I ran up a loss of around £12,000’

Over three years I ran up an online poker loss of around £12,000. Playing poker was like being in a trance. I couldn’t quit even whilst ahead. I drank. I’d wake up the next day and wonder who that was last night – that mad person who had dribbled away my hard-earned salary?

Since I work in finance this meant I couldn’t change jobs as I’d have my credit checked. This has held my career back. As a renter, it also meant I couldn’t move from my flat, which has mould. For years I felt like a dirty loser with no control over my life.

I did have a good experience though with the site PartyPoker. I told them about my gambling and asked for a deposit limit of £10 to be put on my account. They said they took that sort of thing very seriously, closed my account and provided a link for advice on responsible gaming. I was pretty impressed, and to be honest that really helped break the poker-fever.

Sam, Edinburgh

I am not sure who to tell as I am deeply embarrassed about it’

I started playing blackjack online when I turned 18 and won several thousand pounds to start with. Then I started playing for more and more money and was simultaneously introduced to casino and internet poker. For several years I went through phases of giving myself an ultimatum that I would never play poker or gamble again, but inevitably I would break this promise to myself.

I tried to get counselling from Gamblers Anonymous (GA) but when it was offered to me I found I did not have the strength of mind to talk to a counsellor. I have hidden most of my online gambling from family and friends and have this burden of how I have wasted my time and money to myself. I am not sure who to tell as I am deeply embarrassed about it and feel it reflects badly on me and that those close to me will change their opinion.

Roger, London

‘Receiving substantial amounts of money can be distressing for him because of the compulsion’

My partner used to work for a high street bookmaker and developed a gambling problem through being in that environment. He suffers mental health problems and went off work for long term sickness and eventually left. He is a compulsive gambler and turns to gamble when he cannot cope with life.

Receiving substantial amounts of money can be distressing for him because of the compulsion he constantly feels to gamble. One time a few thousand poundswas played on roulette and lost within two and a half hours. No attempts to contact were made by the bookmaker, even though my partner had already lost a lot of money and they had access to files explaining his mental health issues.

Bookmakers always talk about protecting the vulnerable. I feel like allowing my partner to gamble like that was a massive failure and feel strongly enough to say they did not honour their licence agreement. Thankfully we pulled through and my partner received counselling through a local service . However I think he will always be a gambling addict and may always relapse throughout his life.

Louisa, north of England

Roulette machines in a bookmakers

Roulette machines in a bookmakers. Photograph: Alamy

 

‘Gambling for me wasn’t about chasing the big win, it was about chasing the money I’d already lost’

My gambling was very secretive and involved bets on my phone. I gambled away money I didn’t have, took out payday loans, borrowed off family members, all the while my wife didn’t have a clue. I consider myself to be a family man, I love my wife and daughter and would do absolutely anything to give them a life they deserve. Gambling for me wasn’t about chasing the big win, it was about chasing the money I’d already lost. I got more satisfaction about recouping money I’d lost that I did my winning outright.

When my wife found out about my problem she was devastated. We are saving up for our first mortgage and I was daft enough to waste what money I had left over on something so meaningless. I then risked my long-term credit rating by taking out short-term loans to fund my habit. I have attended GA meetings for the past 10 weeks and at the time of writing am coming up to 90 days without placing a bet.

Craig, Lancashire

‘My husband works with addicts every day but these machines turned him into one’

My husband is a recovering gambler. He gambled for years without any issues then one day in the bookies he tried a roulette machine. Three years later and thousands of pounds in debt he eventually told me and started attending GA. It nearly destroyed our marriage and has had a profound impact on my ability to trust him. We now lose a substantial amount of our income a month to a debt management plan and whilst we’re financially secure due to reasonably paid jobs we can’t afford all the nice things I see friends doing like holidaying abroad, going out for meals etc.

He is an intelligent, degree-educated man who works with addicts every day but these machines turned him into an addict of a different sort. He has had mental health problems ever since and remains on medication for anxiety. I don’t think the 12 step approach suits everyone though. Perhaps there should be more CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)-like approaches as there are with drugs and alcohol problems.

Amy, Yorkshire

‘I have gambled pretty much every day since my mum died 10 years ago’

I started gambling when I was 14. My mum, uncle and grandfather were all addicted to gambling. I started playing fruit machines in the pub where I worked part time. My mum and I then started going into the arcade in the local town often from 9am-9pm when it closed, before the 24 hour arcades opened. I have gambled pretty much every day since my mum died 10 years ago – often going to the arcade and phoning in sick.

I’ve had two periods of absence from work – one lasted for 18 months and currently it’s been a couple of weeks. My mum died with a thousands of pounds of debt which my father knew nothing about. I have had counselling, taken part in clinical tests and have been to all the relevant NHS clinics but these are not supported as much as they should be.

Charlie, London

  • All the names in this article have been changed for anonymity purposes.
  • For help, support and advice about problem gambling you can contact the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133 or via the online chat service NetLine.

Source: The Guardian

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