Everyone now who signs up to a casino or online, etc, should have to do an affordability check and a mental health awareness sort of check, “You need to provide us with the last three months of bank statements”, etc. That in itself could be a deterrent to someone to want to actually go and gamble, “Oh I don’t want to show you my bank statements”. “Well that’s policy, so you can’t come in”. So that in itself will be a deterrent, as long as it’s across the board. And anyone that’s in insolvency in any way, bankruptcies, things like that should be partnership working as well. You’ve declared bankruptcy, so you really shouldn’t be in the casino, you know.
You know, when are you going to land based casinos for me, a lot of them have your membership cards. I was going in every day, every night, consecutively, for months. That should have been red, red flag warning signs coming off to have a phone conversation, pulled to one side, Is everything okay, but nothing. Nothing really so.
When I was online, I approached people and spoke about my gambling issues in terms of the providers. They then sent me £500 free credit to have a go, “see if you still like it”. That was one of the gambling providers. Rather than actually taking part in the safer gambling campaigns and things that they are meant to do it’s more encouraging [you] back in. Which was awful, a terrible, terrible time.
I don’t think there’s any amount of money you can win as a gambler in the height of addiction that you’re going to walk away from. Once you’ve got it, your mentality changes instantly. When I won that £127,000, I thought to myself, Oh, that’s going to drop in again in a minute. So there was these fire bonus things that used to be on website online sites, and you could spend £2000 on one. And that’s what I was doing. And I thought, Well, look how easy that dropped in, I can do that again.
For me, my mental health, at the time of gambling, I thought I was okay when I was gambling, because it was distortion. And when really, I was not. I was not okay at all. I was just going further and further down a hole. Coming out of gambling, my mental health has suffered in so many ways through loss and what gambling was taken away from me, and that is time with my family, rejection, shame, guilt. And I have to deal with all of this on a day-to-day basis. I have to get myself out of bed and try and tell myself that I am a good person, I just did bad things because of addiction. And that is an effort every single day to not – try and go backwards, to try and move forwards.
So in terms of relationship with the people, I then withdraw away. It’s almost like I knew what was coming. I felt that my life was a ticking time bomb and everything was going to be unveiled at some point. And so I was clinging on to gambling. My perspective of it changed with gambling. It was I need the big win to replace the money now, because it had got to a stage, I need that big win, rather than I want it’s enjoyable. It was a need, which in my quest of need to get this big, there was no relationship with anyone else, I was heartless, cold. I was an awful person to be around, awful person to be around.
I don’t think there’s any amount of money you can win as a gambler in the height of addiction that you’re going to walk away from. Once you’ve got it, your mentality changes instantly. When I won that £127,000, I thought to myself “Oh, that’s going to drop in again in a minute”. So there was these fire bonus things that used to be on websites, online sites, and you could spend £2000 on one. And that’s what I was doing. And I thought “Well, how easy that dropped in, I can do that again”.
But with OCD, the compulsion element to gambling for not being, for anyone out there who suffers with mental health and certainly the diagnosis I have, who cannot say no, who cannot put boundaries in place, the world of gambling is the worst place they could ever get into. Literally the worst place you can ever get into, because you are just absolutely loving it. It is everything, everything wrong for that condition.
So, yeah, part of the social group. And then, it just became routine and then sort of switched from friends turning and saying “do you want to go to the casino?”, I was the one that started to instigate “shall we go to the casino?”, so that had turned around. And if they said no, this was another massive turning point for me, I just used to go on my own then. So it had gone from it being a social element and it starting as a social element. And then I’d gradually go “well I don’t need anyone around there, because I’m going to go anyway”.
At the start it was just based on obviously the casinos are open 24/7 with friends coming out of nightclubs after nights out and thinking, “Oh, let’s go to the casino.” It was a social element completely. I would probably be the anti-gambler among the group, actually. I would be the one that would lose £20 and be like I am not doing that anymore, no way.
Don’t believe all the bad press that you read around gambling. Go and find and do some information and research for yourself. And support and campaign for change around gambling advertisements, gambling structures, gambling routines… I would say you’re probably never more than two steps away from a compulsive gambler and one of those could be in your family, so really educate and look at the signs and symptoms so you could be by doing that, helping somebody else.
The biggest thing I would say to anyone experiencing it is reach out and get help… It’s scary. It’s daunting because there are so many ways in why you’re using gambling, whether that’s to escape from something, whether it’s blocking out emotions, feelings or whether it’s enjoyable and it just got out of control. Whatever the reason, a life without gambling is better than what you’re doing and facing up to problems and fears. Once you take the gambling away, life becomes more manageable. Life is better after gambling, and it was the best decision I ever did was to reach out and get help.
In a broad sense, I just think it should be banned. Absolutely completely banned. There should be no advertising of gambling… I’m still baffled to this very day that I can walk into my local supermarket, and I can’t visually see any cigarettes, but then the scratch cards are on the side. It makes no sense. Who is sitting there making these rules that you know these addictions worse than this addiction? If you can’t see one, I don’t think you should be able to see any.
Where it had got so bad, I had committed fraud by abuse of position. That’s where my gambling had led me. So in the space of a week, I went from having my own place, partner, career, everything, to having to declare myself bankrupt, lost my job, got arrested, lost my partner, lost absolutely everything in the space of three days, so it was a very trying time… which did ultimately lead to attempted suicide.
Was I actually present at work? I was doing my job. Was I giving it my all? I was literally sitting there betting. It’s all I thought about day and night, continuously. Everything else just seemed to be an absolute barrier. It was in the way. I knew I had to go to work. I knew I had this relationship. I couldn’t just leave. Bills had to be paid to a degree, but it didn’t matter. Wherever I was the minute I found the online casinos, that’s where the gambling happened and that was my priority.
I then found sort of online gambling. Never had bad credit or anything in my life. I’d taken out every payday loan possible to fund gambling. This is quite early on. Every single time I got paid at midnight, I’d either wait up to go to the casino or sit online on my phone and by ten past midnight where after my wages had cleared it had gone and I was back to square one. So that really the development was for me like a social thing, at the age of 18, 19 and then by 19, I was hooked, completely, completely hooked.
For me, my mental health, at the time of gambling, I thought I was okay when I was gambling, because it was distortion. And when really I was not, I was not okay at all. I was just going further and further down a hole. Coming out of gambling, my mental health has suffered in so many ways through loss and what gambling was taken away from me, and that is time with my family, rejection, shame, guilt. And I have to deal with all of this on a day to day basis. I have to get myself out of bed and try and tell myself that I am a good person, I just did bad things because of addiction. And that is an effort every single day to not go backwards, to try and move forwards.
At the moment, life, I’d say days are okay. I keep myself in a little bubble, I focus on what I need to do in terms of becoming debt free, all the legacy elements of gambling harm, I think I am in that sort of stage recovery of 18 months now, where sorting out my credit score, and debt and focusing on a career for the future.
And [I] had sessions with GamCare, which was good. The therapist there was beyond amazing, because she was dealing with loss of all kinds for me, as well as trying to help me through with the gambling addiction. That lady was fantastic. And then I sort of got handed over to Peeraid, contacts with people who have been in similar situations. And I thought Oh, ok, and I put it off and put it off and put it off because I thought to myself, what’s going to help me, sitting in a room full of ex-gambling addicts, people with addictions, talking about gambling. And actually, that was the turning point to my life.