AO Harm


Experiencing gambling difficulties hinders and disrupts a social life and the connection to a community. Taking part in social groups and activities that matter to you and feeling that you belong are very important to being happy and healthy. This also has practical benefits, as you can get information and resources for daily life, and help when you need it. Not having such connections contributes to mental and physical ill-health and early death, and to being less well off. So, this disruption to social life is very damaging.

Gambling takes people’s attention, time, and money away from social groups and other leisure activities. It can damage people’s social standing, because they are behaving in ways that go against group values. Communities tend to not understand gambling difficulties. People feel humiliated and ashamed, and this isolates them. The extent of gambling and gambling advertising in daily life can mean people end up in social and digital exclusion to avoid it. The experience of being rejected, ostracised, or alienated from the community can be long-lasting.

During Gambling

People have said gambling takes all their attention away from other leisure and social activities. Also, as gambling takes all a person’s money, they cannot afford to go out or take part in other things. They are usually hiding their gambling. So, it can seem like they are being anti-social, unreliable, or letting people down. The lies and deceit can lead to them being seen as untrustworthy.

I live with my mum, but obviously, I couldn’t pay her housekeeping and things like that, so she was keeping me really, paying nothing towards what have you. Also, I’m a big Tottenham fan but I didn’t have any money to go to games and things like that, things that you enjoy doing. It were like mates’ birthday parties, couldn’t go because I had no money to go. It’s just all my money was living for the bookies and gambling. Once that had gone, that was it. Couldn’t socialize, couldn’t go watch football, couldn’t play football, couldn’t meet people. All you want is to get some money to gamble again to get some money back in your pocket if you could do.


And the other thing is that when I was gambling quite often, I’d arranged to socialize with people but by the time it actually came round to going on the event, I’d have no money to go. So, I would either cancel or make some form of excuse or try and borrow money, the money to go which again just puts you in a shameful place. So, you know, it was a cyclic behaviour which was just continuous.

My wife will testify at that and a whole range of people will. Your personality changes, your behaviour changes. You see some of it and you don’t see others, yourself because you’re so immersed in it, you’ll do whatever it takes to gamble. Not just doing what it takes to gamble or how to gamble, but doing the gambling itself, how to access the gambling sites. You could be doing things like, “I’m supposed to go and meet friends tonight, I’m going to go out for the night,” “Okay, no worries, have a good night.”
You’d leave the door, but you wouldn’t even turn up to that person. You could be sat in your car around the corner gambling on your phone all night, come back a few hours later, and your wife thinks you’ve been to your friend’s house. You haven’t, you’ve been sat in your car gambling. My friend could even be expecting me. It could be a truth.
My friend could have been expecting that night, but I actually sat around the corner and started gambling for hours on end, just on my phone, sat in the car on my own, why would I do that? Why would I not turn up to my friends? Why would I lie to my wife? Why would I sit in the car around the corner gambling, so I lost all money and then go back home and actually tell her that I actually went to see my friend. Why would I do that?


People have described how they may end up borrowing money from a wider and wider group of people. From family, friends, acquaintances and then people they hardly knew. They say that they have ‘ruined their reputation’. They have become known for always being ‘broke’, not paying people back, or a ‘pest’ for asking for money.

But the urge to gamble, when I’d lost, say I lost all my money, the urge got stronger. It was really weird… It was just like, “Oh, my God,” I was going through contacts through Facebook. People who I hardly knew. People I’ve not spoke to in years. Just absolutely ruining my reputation by saying, “Oh, I’m really – can you bank transfer me £50,” to people that I barely knew. Oh, God. The stuff that I said and did, obviously, I used to ask family a lot.

I was always someone that always had access to people that would lend me money. Family, friends and extended friends. Because I was always someone that worked. I was always someone that had a job. The perception was doesn’t gamble more than he can afford or doesn’t gamble excessively. There was no even mention of that. That is someone that could always deliver on promises that he made, and it was only a matter of time before those promises were let down. I let people down, I let friends down, I let family down.

People can feel especially separated from the group if gambling is contrary to the beliefs of the community they belong to. Gambling may stop the person doing things that are important to community membership. This could be not marking important religious or cultural events. Or a group may not approve of gambling as a leisure activity and have strong beliefs in the importance of hard work and paying your own way.

I don’t have a single pence to buy a bottle of milk in my festival, big festival, like Christmas, we celebrate Eid in India. I don’t have any money to buy a bottle of milk, pint of milk. So enough is enough. And just keep roaming, no one trust me. My friends, if I phone them, they just ignore my phone because one minute, two minutes later, I will ask for money. Can I borrow some money? So, they ignore me. I’m from Muslim town and my family members, my mum is a teacher, my father in government… So, for me, gambling is impossible, impossible for me, because we hate this type of thing, gambling, drunken.

I just felt ashamed about gambling because– I don’t know, there’s so much stigma about it in society nowadays. One of big things was as well that my dad at the time, he absolutely despised gambling, and I was ashamed… I didn’t want him to find out. I didn’t want anyone to find out really how bad it got because I didn’t actually enjoy doing it or want to do it. I just felt ashamed that I was ruining my whole life.

However, being in a group where gambling is a big part of common activities, also creates problems. The person may feel different from everyone else and like there is something wrong with them because they can not handle their gambling.

It’s something that only recently I’ve been able to acknowledge and get the right type of help for. Back then at the start, it was a case of, “Okay, I’ve messed up.” I did it wrong. I did it wrong. I went about it the wrong way and then not too long afterwards, I did it again with the acknowledgment of, “Well, I did it wrong last time. I’ll do it right this time. Things will be different,” but it doesn’t work like that and it took, I think another relapse, another stay at gambling 2017 where I got into that again and needed help to pay off the debt again.

So, people can feel they no longer belong or deserve to be part of their community. Or they could feel that they had lost their standing in their community. They feel humiliated and ashamed.  This makes them feel like they are not deserving of friendship, support or doing things that are good for them. This leaves them isolated and stuck in their gambling.

I saw my best friend and told her everything… I felt like a human being, that I sat there that evening with my friends feeling like I belonged. Because I’d spent so long feeling like I didn’t belong, that I didn’t deserve nice things… But that lying to people is as toxic as the gambling because it keeps you in this place that you don’t feel very good about yourself, that nobody’s going to understand you, so what have you got left at the end of the day? You’ve got gambling and it works on silence.


Trying to stop gambling can disrupt a person’s social life. This is because gambling and gambling advertising is everywhere, and they must avoid it.

Some people have had to come off social media because they could not get rid of gambling advertising. Some even stopped having a smart phone or access to Wi-Fi. People may have to give up social groups. For example, they may have to stop spending time with a group of friends or with family members who gamble. They may have to give up other social and leisure activities because they are associated with gambling and gambling advertising. Or gambling has stopped them enjoying the things they used to. This could be football, a favourite TV or radio show, or a television channel.

I don’t have a smartphone. I have wanted a smartphone. I even got a smartphone, an upgrade on my contract last year. I just felt I could do it. I felt I could do it. This was just after I handed the phone back; my boss’ phone and came out the hospital. I went ahead and ordered a nice, shiny, new phone, it was a new Google pixel or something like that. My contracts went up in price and I felt, “No, I can unlist. I’m not going to gamble on it, I’m going to just use it for what it needs to be for. I will search the web and what have you, but I will put blocks on it and I will not gamble.”
I was adamant to my wife. I was quite stern. I said, “No, I will be okay. I will be fine. I feel I can do this.” She wasn’t happy about it. I ended up actually giving the phone to her because she needed an upgrade and it turns out it was the best decision and we acknowledged that I, perhaps shouldn’t have got that contract. When that contract ends next year I will get a lower contract again but I’m on that contract for my non-smartphone.

I am back to using this phone which, I never took it away. I had it and does everything I need it to do. She has now the upgrade which was the new phone that I had. She has her own SIM card in that. It worked out well in the end, but I jumped the gun a little, thinking I could have a smartphone, because I did want one and I still do want one. I would love a smartphone, I really would because I’d love to check my football, but I have to sit back now and acknowledge I am a compulsive gambler, would having a smartphone, as much as you say you won’t do this and you won’t do that, even if it’s over time, have the temptation to lead you back to gambling? It would.
I am a compulsive gambler. I’m a gambling addict, whether it’s six days, six months, or six years down the line I would probably have that temptation. Even if I started having gambling thoughts, which will inevitably come back, if I’ve got a smartphone at hand that’s going to make it harder to resist. The right logical decision, as much as I would love a smartphone, me and other people like me, unfortunately, you have to make sacrifices in life now. What’s best? Having a temptation and a smartphone just to be in this day and age but has the potential to ruin your life or make you commit suicide or lose your loved ones or not have a smartphone and actually live a nice normal healthy life, both mentally and physically. I know which one I’d choose and it’s not the smartphone. As much as I would like one for what they are, I acknowledge I’m better without one. That’s just the sacrifice I have to make and I can live with that, I can.


Not last weekend, the weekend before, and the mates were going out on a Sunday. One of the lads who went out, he doesn’t bet, but all the others do. He rung me up and said, “Do you know what?” ” He said, “I was out with them all on Sunday. I actually said to them, “It’s not ideal this, is it? If Andy comes out with us.”. They were like, “Why?” He said, “All of you, every single one of you while this football game is on, you’re all on your phones and talking about what you’ve had a bet on and almost exchanging thoughts on the bets and this, that, and the other.” When I heard that, I thought, “Yes, I’m not ready to go out and be in that environment yet.” Because obviously, you’ve got to, at some point, be like that, but you just got to think, “Well, it’s not going to bother me.”
At the moment, because it’s so raw, I think I won’t put myself in that position. These people have said, “If you ever want to go out for drinks or a chat–” I know when I do that, it would be literally with one of them. I wouldn’t go out with five, six, seven of them because I wouldn’t want them to stop having a bet because I’m there, but at the same time, I probably will be uncomfortable if they are all talking about gambling when I’m there just wanting to have a drink.


It’s awful and it takes some getting back as well. I like to think I’m starting to get it back now, but I haven’t been able to enjoy anything else for years, really. I do stuff to pass the time, like I say, I go and watch football and stuff like that, which is it’s OK, but I don’t enjoy it like I used to. Since I used to have those highs of playing roulette or whatever, I’ve had very little interest in anything else ever since.

And I’ve really lost my enjoyment for football as well since I’ve stopped because my favoured, my preferred market was always goals, so I wanted to, I would always bet on, over goals basically, so over 2.5 over 3.5 goals, those sort of things. So it actually stopped me watching football because I have a big bet on something and I’ll be watching the games and if there was a foul or if there was a stop in play, I’d be getting really stressed because I’d be like, no we need goals, we don’t need the game to stop, we need constant attacking. So I’d stop watching football and I’d just be watching on my phone and just be on scores apps just watching the, refreshing scores apps and things like that. And now I’ve stopped, I still, I just don’t get the same enjoyment from football anymore. I used to always watch football, watch my own team, watch other teams. I just can’t. I just struggle to sit there and watch 90 minutes now because I just I feel like I’ve lost that side of my emotion, that excitement I used to have football. I think because it’s so inextricably linked to gambling still.


The damage to a person’s participation in social groups and standing in the community could be long term. They could be rejected or ostracised. Or they may continue to feel alienated from the group. They may feel like people do not understand. People often continue to make decisions about who to tell about their gambling and who to conceal it from. This is to protect themselves and their social standing.

So, for me, I mean, I suffer in my hometown there’s the club I stole the money from. I went back in there three years later, I paid all the money back. Previously, the one who got suspended and sacked eventually for stealing money, and he’s there for twenty-five years, he goes back in there – normal. I walk back in there after paying all the money back within two years and it’s a different committee and stuff there now. I wouldn’t go back there again now. I see people looking down. I get people who I think are a bit more level-headed, a bit more understanding and empathetic who see the work I do and go, do you know what Nick, I’ve known you for 20 years, some of the stuff you’ve done has been horrendous but fair play to you mate, you’ve turned your life around and you’re trying to help others and blah, blah, blah raise awareness. Then there’s other people who look you up and down going shit, you’re a piece of shit, you’re an addiction, you’ll always be an addict.


The reason I haven’t told people is due to shame and embarrassment. The way they might respond, I suppose, but I don’t know, I may be, I suppose, I am quite positive in the way that I think that most people that I know would respond positively, but it’s really different for everyone. Yeah, it’s very different for everyone. And you know, you know, you’ve let, obviously you’ve let people down and things. So that’s always difficult to be able to share with others. Yeah, and I guess for some people, it might be really difficult because they might be surrounded by other people that are problem gamblers as well, which that would be tough, but that’s not my situation. So I guess for me, the reason I haven’t told a lot of people is because I find it difficult to own up to it and while I would hope that most people I know that if I did tell, would be supportive, even if they know, I guess like you feel that most people would think that it was illogical and, you know yourself it’s illogical, so well I know myself it was not the right thing to do.


You don’t talk to people about it because it’s seen as quite a dirty habit almost. And my wife’s the only person who has ever known about it. Other people may have deduced, I mean, I’m nearly 40, I’ve always been in well-paid jobs, and I don’t own my own home. We rent and we don’t have loads of money because we’re covering other stuff so other people might have made their deductions. I’ve always managed to, with my own family, kind of talk myself out of it in the sense of, “So well, we’ve badly restructured”, and things like that. And whether they believe that or not, I don’t know.

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