Gambling Experiences

Starting to gamble

Those who develop difficulties with gambling start like everyone else – playing for a bit of fun. It is easy to try gambling as it is present and available to everyone in everyday life. There are different ways that people are introduced to gambling.

For some, gambling is part of their childhood. They may have done it with relatives, at school or on holidays. It is common for these people to have good memories of gambling growing up.

From an early age my dad had put bets on for me, but it was always, perhaps, daft amounts like 25p, 50p on horses or something, just for a bit of interest. Then when I got to the age where I could go in a bookmakers, I was quite often going in. Again, because you didn’t have that sort of money then as such. I did have a paper round, so I suppose I had a bit of extra money, or I got pocket money. It was only really when I was 18 and able to go in bookmakers, which I did – I don’t mind admitting I did enjoy going in, I felt it was quite a buzz.

My first relationship with gambling was with my granddad, and I only found out about this when I left rehab, when my mum told me what we used to do together. I never really had any memory of it, but he used to ask me to pick horses for him from the newspapers. You know, what ones did I like the name of, what numbers and that went on to sort of picking numbers for him for the lottery. And it must have stuck with me because I laugh because I wasn’t, but he used to say I was lucky.

Gambling started when I was 13 or 14. It was just me and a mate, peers from my school. We liked playing poker. We played cards together when we were around his or mine. We just said, “Let’s play online poker.” We didn’t really understand the overall logic of the game online or anything like that. We were just kids and we thought we were just having fun and that kind of thing.

My friend, his brother actually had a fruit machine in his bedroom, and you didn’t have to put money into it. You could just load the credits behind, and we used to play this fruit machine as sort of like 10, 11-year-olds. And when I started secondary school, I’d say this was the first interaction with gambling was penny up the wall… where you sort of throw coins against the wall and whosever coin is closest to the wall you would win the coins of people that are throwing… And the feeling that it gave me was obviously it’s competitive and I’m a young teenage boy and it was fun. So, yeah, very, very similar to sort of where it developed going forward with my gambling.

Some are introduced to gambling by friends when they are older, and it is part of what they do together as a group.

I probably started gambling at the age of 18, at university. The start was probably the same way most other 18-year-old lads would. Grew up with mates. I play cricket, I play rugby and just them real gamblergenic environments where it’s a normal thing to do.

When I first started gambling it was very much a bit of fun, absolutely. I was just putting on little bets, football mainly. I might go to the pub and there would be William Hill over the road, getting a slip. We used to discuss the slip, football slips with mates and stuff. I’d put maybe a pound on here, and pound on there, that sort of thing… Sometimes we’d get some wins and sometimes we didn’t, but it was small amounts of money and nothing that was a daily thing at that point.

And really it kind of, I’d say, although I started in 2002, throughout the rest of university, it was never a, because gambling wasn’t as prevalent, and me and my friends, we never went in bookmakers or anything like that. So, it was always online. It wasn’t on your mobile at that time, so you’d have to be in front of a PC. It wasn’t the sort of 24-7 access that you have now, so it was kind of we put a couple of bets on and then we’d go out or we’d go to university and we wouldn’t really think about it. And for all that time, really, I’d say that I was very much a sort of sociable gambler. I loved football. Having a bet just added an extra element to it.


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.

For others, trying gambling was more chance. It came from seeing a gambling advertisement, getting an offer to play, going to a gambling event, or an offhand suggestion from someone.

It was a bit of innocent curiosity that I would definitely put down to– At the time, I didn’t have a TV so I could definitely not blame gambling adverts and they were not at the saturation point as they are now but there was definitely stuff on the internet and it probably was something that’s popped up or an email that’s come through and I’ve clicked on it and gone, “Well, why not? I’ll get some free spins or an incentive.”

And one evening the kids were going out, not mine, the students, they were going off to the casino, they thought they had a system. I just laughed and sort of waved them goodbye. I think it was a Thursday evening and I just got back from theatre. I used to belong to an Amdram group. I was the proprietary mistress and set builder. So it was, I don’t know, sort of mid-to-late evening, and I don’t know why, I just sort of look, looked online at my computer, at my laptop and just started looking. It was at that time the most popular advert that I remember well, which was the one, was Jackpot Joy. Good old Barbara Windsor, all dressed up in her queeny regalia and all these blue balls going everywhere. And that’s what I logged on to. Within a week, I mean, I just dipped in, sort of once a week. It became a thing on Thursday after I’d been to theatre, and I came home and bought myself a glass of wine. I think within the first month, I won a grand.


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