Gambling Experiences

Physical and psychological addiction

People went from gambling a little, to getting more involved. People find that the more they gamble, the more they want to gamble. Their need to gamble grows. Their gambling spirals out of control and they get to the point where gambling has taken over their entire life.

This happens because gambling is physically and psychologically addictive. To say that something is addictive means that it leads to people losing control and continuing to do it even though it is causing them harm. People’s experience is that gambling works like an addictive substance, like alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

People had not understood how addictive gambling was and they ended up ‘sleepwalking’ into addiction without realising it was happening.

Prisonous. What I would say, it’s something that probably grows in that time and opportunity. It could be that you find that you’re spending more time on it, or you’re more distracted by it, but you’re thinking about it. Because I wouldn’t sit at work and gamble in front of people. Even when I worked at home, I don’t think I really let it impact on that, but I would definitely a bit earlier in the evening that I would start, and it would be later. I remember a time where it was a Wednesday and this is when it was quite bad, so say in the last year, and it was a Wednesday and I was stood in my kitchen and I was shaking going, “I’ve got to gamble.”

Now, there was nobody there with a gun against my head, but that’s what it felt like. It was like, “I have to gamble,” and it was in that thing of, “I don’t ordinarily want to do this, but I have no say in the matter,” and things like efforts to try and not gamble of getting my credit cards and putting them in an envelope, pulling my washing machine out, sticking it on a wall, and pushing the washing machine back just to slow me down. It always feels like a bit of a film because if you think, as soon as that laptop was open, that washing machine was in the middle of the room, those credit cards were out. For me, I’m like, “Well, why didn’t I chop them up?” It’s always that you need those things around you to enable you to gamble.


Physical urges and intrusive thoughts

People describe how gambling caused physical changes to the circuits in their brain, the part of the brain that reacts to rewards. They describe this as having their brain ‘hijacked’ or rewired, so they become hooked on gambling. This means the demand for the ‘dopamine hit’ from gambling is so intense it will override sensible decisions.

You feel like you are a passenger in your own body. You’re doing stuff that you don’t want to do. You feel like you’re sort of looking at yourself from the outside sometimes, like, what are you doing? And you’re just powerless to stop it, you. You want that buzz because you get like a dopamine hit or whatever every time you do it, and your brain just wants that so much that all common sense goes out the window. You’re just powerless to it, completely powerless. And you can’t think of nothing else. Your brain is just going 100 miles an hour, go and have a bet or if you haven’t got any money, where are you going to get money from, get money. So, you just try everything to get money and then like, it takes over… It’s like someone takes over your brain and they’re holding you hostage.

They have overwhelming physical urges or compulsions to gamble.

I think it’s quite hard to explain to someone that hasn’t had any addiction problems the feelings that come up because I don’t think there’s anything that you can compare it to or replicate to get that sort of empathy from them, really, if they haven’t experienced that compulsion, that need, that desire, that waking up at two o’clock in the morning shaking because you haven’t put a bet on or you can’t find £5 to put your next bet on. I think it’s quite hard to actually explain to someone that feeling without them having experienced it themselves, really.

All I can describe it as is, say if I was going down the shop– I think I used this example a while back. I would go down to the shop for my haircut, and I would take £20. I’d walk to the barbers, and the betting shop is after the barbers, so I would have to walk past the barbers to get to the betting shop. For someone who struggles with gambling or someone who is addicted to gambling, once they see the betting sign, what their initial plan was goes out the window. It’s like, as soon as you– It’s like you’re a fish, and these betting shops are the rod. As soon as you see that betting shop, the rod is in, and it’s reeling you in. As soon as you’re there, you know what you’re doing is wrong, but there’s an overwhelming sensation. It’s like the angel and the devil scenario, but obviously, the devil always wins– Well, in my case it did. I knew it was wrong, I knew what I was doing was wrong, and a £20 haircut would turn into a £400 one, because I’d spend all that money.


They are consumed by non-stop thoughts, images or sounds of gambling in their heads.

I don’t really know how it escalated because it was a little bit of fun and then it just got to the stage where I was thinking about it all the time. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop gambling either, I couldn’t stop doing it. I knew I didn’t enjoy it. It was strange. Knowing that you don’t enjoy it, you sit and then carry on doing it. It just got to the point where I didn’t even know. I couldn’t even think straight. When I was working, thinking about that all the time. That was where it got to in the end when I owed £1000 and it just makes you depressed because you can’t control it.

It went from something that was a bit of fun and a buzz to something that just became all consuming. It literally took over your day. So, when you’ve got a gambling addiction, you don’t wake up and think Right, I’ll have a bet at six o’clock. You wake up thinking, Right, what am I going to have a bet on today? How am I going to get this? I lost £2,000 yesterday, how am I going to get that back? And you have your phone stuck to you because that’s all you’re doing. You’re thinking about it. You become anxious; you get depressed. You start taking other things.

All people wanted or needed

Gambling gives people pleasurable, absorbing experiences. Gambling changes how you feel. As a result people use gambling to try and fulfil all their needs and to try and cope. This means that they become psychologically dependent on gambling.

Whatever I was going through, whether it was a good time or a bad time I would gamble. I would create scenarios to gamble. So, with my ex and things I would turn around and say, he’d come in from work “why are you in a mood?”, “Oh I am not in a mood”, “Oh Ok”, then I would generate an argument from that “well I’m going out, I need some air”. And then I’d go off and gamble. But that was something sitting inside of me. It’s like that itch, that urge where you keep scratching and it’s not going away until you’re actually doing it. So, I would create situations. When I used to work in the care homes we used to have to cover on-call. And there would be periods of time where I would pretend the on-call had gone off, it was a big incident and I’d sit in the casino for three or four nights and not actually go home because then I had to, didn’t have to make things up. I’d already done the big thing. I wasn’t going to be expected to go home. And that to me is the drive where gambling takes you. There’s no limits to what you will do to gamble, and it is very, very, very addictive.


People end up being driven to gamble over doing anything else. They neglect relationships, and work.

In hindsight, now, she said to me at the end, she said, “I wish you were having an affair”. Because I’d been not wilfully neglecting her, but accidently, I’m going to say accidentally neglecting the relationship, but you know oh, we’re going out on Friday with, you know, with Jane and Charlie, “Oh, no, I can’t. I’ve got to do a report for work”. I didn’t have to do a report to work. I was gambling, you know, and a whole host of what I was calling porky pies at the time because I was more interested in the gambling than going out with her. It wasn’t anything that was wrong with the relationship. It just meant that gambling meant more to me at that time than what the relationship did.

I remember when I told my daughters and my oldest daughter just said “Dad, thank God there’s a reason for the way you’ve been like you are because we thought that you just didn’t like us anymore”. So that’s hard to take, knowing that nobody really mattered because all that mattered was gambling.

People can end up gambling non-stop. 

I would still put coupons on and still get tips on horses and, you know, some of them are good ones and I’d win some decent money, but that money would then just go straight to in-play. So I look back on some of the subject access request that I got. And it’s pretty horrific, really, my alarm would go off at 06:00 and my first in-play bet would be at a minute past 06:00 and the last one would be just before I went to bed. So I’d literally have my account open all day. And I think the most I ever did was 460 bets in one day. So it was horrendous. I mean, like I say, I think in the January I did an analysis of one month, so that was January 2017, six months before I stopped and I sticked £111,000 that month. It worked out an average of 280 bets a day.


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