Gambling requires money. Loss of money and deteriorating finances are the most direct harm gambling causes. Gambling causes deprivation and financial exclusion, for the person and their family.
The way financial harm looks can be different depending on how much money a person can get. This is because addiction means people often end up gambling with whatever money they can access. People with more income, assets, and ability to get credit will lose more and have a large amount of debt. But losses or debt that may seem small can be overwhelming for someone on a low income.
Financial harms tend to progress from not having money for other activities to paying essential bills and having nothing left to live on to missing important payments. To missing important payments. People start to gamble using overdrafts, credit cards and loans. Then they turn to expensive credit like payday loans. Gambling takes resources away from families and friends.
To stop gambling, people give up having access to their own money. People and their families are left in debt. Their housing situation is downgraded, or they may be homeless. They are unable to get contracts or finance.
In the current gambling market, there are limitless opportunities to gamble. And this goes along with quick online payments, and access to credit. This means for people gambling today, a great deal of financial harm can happen very rapidly.
There is a common pattern to how people’s finances deteriorate.
People would start to spend more and more of their income on gambling. They may be able to keep this up for a while without feeling there is a problem. Then they only pay essential bills, like rent, but gamble the rest. This often happens around payday or when benefits came in. Then people do not have any money to live on for the rest of the month.
This dates me, my first wage I came out with £57 for the month and I was rich. I bought everybody presents. You know, that was an unbelievable amount of money to me in those days. So, then what would happen would be that I’d give my mum some money, supposedly for rent, which were very nominal. But within a week I’d be borrowing it back and borrowing more money for the train. And basically, that set off a horrendous cycle that carried on, you know, with gaps in between until I was in my sixties
And obviously gradually the money progressed, and the amounts started to progress further and further, really. Like I say, up until the point where I got paid at 12 o’clock and 12 o’clock at night, that was a regular occurrence, I’d be checking my bank at 12 o’clock to make sure that my money or my wages had gone in. And within the space of an hour and a half my entire months’ salary had gone and I had no more options to turn to.
Then people would start using credit to gamble. Many people gamble using overdrafts, then a credit card, then multiple credit cards, then loans. The intention is often to use the money they borrow for essentials or to consolidate debt. However, they are experiencing addiction. This means when people have access to additional money, it usually results in more gambling, and more debt.
I ended up over time with five credit cards, which then turned into two high-cost loans because my credit rating was slowly going down. Getting loans to consolidate that debt to try and just make a clean break of things, and it didn’t work. It just created a black hole of more credit that needed to be filled, and very quickly I would get one credit card with a credit limit, and instantly, by using it, it would go over that credit limit, and then I’d have to sort that out.
Many people end up missing important payments, like car insurance, which creates more problems. They may not have the money for their direct debits to go through. Some end up pawning possessions and borrowing money from family, friends, and acquaintances.
The only bill that came out the day I got paid was my child maintenance… Then anything else was just whatever, phone bills, I used to miss and pay it a week after. My car insurance, I would miss, and then pay double next month and ring them up and just be like, “Oh,” just come out with some shit basically, make up some story just like you do and what you did when you were gambling and you had no money.
People’s credit ratings deteriorate, and they are likely to be declined credit from high street banks. Then many turn to a payday loan or other expensive forms of credit. For those on low incomes or benefits, they may not get high street credit to begin with. They go straight to payday loans. This expensive credit contributes to escalating debt. Many end up in a financial hole that they cannot see their way out of.
I guess 2011, up until I accepted my addiction in 2019, it was just a rollercoaster. Every day was, if I had no money, it was about trying to find money. If I lost that money, it was trying to find more money. Then like the normal things that we’ve all done is bank loans, payday loans, they all followed. Then obviously, as everybody knows, your credit rating soon deteriorates when you’re taking the loans and then not repaying them. That cycle of about eight years, I guess, is when the addiction really hit me, and it started to hit me at the worst possible time in my life.
I started taking out loans, payday loans and stuff like that. If I blew my wages at the end of the month, there was nothing, absolutely nothing. So, building up the debt. I relied on the food banks because I just deprived myself of absolutely everything. I didn’t buy anything for myself. I did try to make sure that my main utility bills were paid for if I could, but if I’d blown the rent and I wasn’t able to get the money from friends, then I’d try and get another loan from somewhere. So basically chasing my losses, for about three years, you know, small amounts here and there.
In this desperate situation, some people are driven to crime by their gambling addiction. Usually this means taking money from their work. This is often with the intention of paying it back. But their addiction can mean they end up gambling with it and losing the money.
Some people have ended up gambling more or over a longer time because of access to additional sources of money. This could be joint savings or mortgaging a home. They may have been bailed out by family or friends. Getting access to a significant sum of money could contribute to their gambling escalating. Such as a student loan, pay-out, inheritance, or the sale of a house. Sometimes people have had periods of where they stopped gambling and managed to pay off some debt, and then relapsed.
I was awarded over £100,000 in compensation basically, and like I say, my mental health deteriorated. Before the court case, I tried ending my life, and after the court case, I tried to end my life. I was finding it really difficult to socialize with anybody, including my family. I was stuck in my room at home. I had this large compensation money, and this is where I found online gambling and unfortunately, I ended up losing all my compensation money within four months.
When people are experiencing addiction, they tend to gamble away all the money they have and all the money they can get. The amount of loss and debt varies based on the person’s access to resources. A seemingly small amount of £20 a week could mean someone on benefits may not be able to afford bread and milk. Others gambled many thousands of pounds, of income, savings, and credit.
There’s a couple of things that changed over time in terms of betting on credit cards. That was ridiculously damaging. I racked up tens of thousands of credit card debt gambling. But, yeah, things like I mean, I’ve never relied on payday loans and things like that. I do have loans, with sort of more reputable companies, but things like that do still exist. There is access to quick money with high interest rates and stuff like that. So as a gambler, there was always ways to get money.
Financial harm affects families. This is because the gambling takes resources from partners, children, parents, and friends.
The shoplifting was obviously because of gambling. I never had any money. I had my kids every weekend and sometimes I would – They would be asking for McDonald’s or, I would have no money. I would be like, “We’ll go here and get something.” I used to go in and grab whatever they wanted and walk out here because they were kids, they’re not going to suspect anything, but obviously from that, I started going in myself, taking a big bag with me and taking– Well, it wasn’t really food and stuff like that. It was food now and again, but I started going different places and scanning places, looking where all the cameras were, looking if they had any alarms. Literally looked into every single detail to not get caught.
Changes in the gambling market cause rapid financial harm
The financial deterioation can happen quite rapidly. Often over a few years or even months. This is because of the nature of the current gambling market. The non-stop marketing and access to intensive gambling.
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.
An older generation of gamblers have gambled over longer periods, decades even, experiencing some financial harm, but at a level that had allowed them keep going. They have described how their gambling and financial harm worsened with each change to the gambling market. For example, the introduction of fixed odds betting terminals into bookmakers, the arrival of in-play betting, online gambling on computers, then gambling on smart phones.
To stop gambling, people often give up control of their finances. They may ask their partner or parent to look after their accounts for them. This means handing over bank cards, not having access to online banking, or having all transactions monitored. Many feel relieved and accept the need to do this. However, it does mean that the person is excluded from one of the basics of adult life.
I’ll never get my trust fully back and I can live with that, deal with that. She has to now manage the finances, so what bills come to where, so I, effectively don’t have a bank account, which works for us both but I feel like she feels like she has an added pressure now because she has to pull that going on as well.
[They] then spoke to me about how I could put those barriers in place so I could build the relationship back up with my family and put barriers in place so if I did slip, I’d talk to my family, who I’d fallen out with because of it. And just to start building my life back up, really. Just so I could actually be able to think straight really and actually write down on a piece of paper and figure out what more money I owed finance-wise and everything, and how much I earned so I could basically not have access to my money, basically. To my phone, my card, my wages. So I couldn’t have them in order to gamble.
Financial damage is often long-term or even lifelong. What might seem like small amount of debt to the average person could be a lot to someone on low income. Some have said it will take them years to pay off their debts. Some do extra work to try and pay it off.
Financially is a massive factor, because I’m still paying off [debts] because I went through solvency through a company because of the £15,000 of the debts, and not just those debts. I had all the debts as well. We get by and one day we do look to go on a holiday as a family, which my children, my young ones now they’re six, seven, and eight, and they haven’t been abroad. There’s one dream.
People are left with bad credit ratings. This has affected access to insurance, cell phone contracts, car, and home finance. It also makes these more expensive.
Several people have experienced damage to their housing situation. They may not be able to move out on their own. They may feel trapped in a difficult living situation. It could be loss of a home they owned or becoming dependent on social housing.
Like I say, responsibilities. I was a young father, and I should have been more responsible. Even today, like our living circumstances. The fact that, you know, because of debt and bankruptcy’s it may be harder for us to ever have our own home again. You know, there’s so much. There’s so much to it.
I’m now living in sheltered housing. I’ve never owned my own home. I can’t afford a car. I’m living from hand to mouth, basically. And it’s, you know, it took me to some very dark places. I should have gone to prison. I have been on the streets twice. And you know, I have attempted suicide twice. And so, you know, it’s ruined my life, you know?
Some people have said that it may look like they are in an adequate financial position. However, compared to those in similar socio-economic circumstances, gambling has held them back and they are worse off. For example, they may not be able to get on the property ladder and must stay in rented accommodation.
I think that side of it is, is the sort of aftermath of it all. Although you can look back and you kind of have this story, it’s kinda the aftermath of picking up the pieces around it is the sort of difficult part. And now I’m sort of looking ahead like I said, I’m almost 40 and you’re thinking, well, I’m still maybe 10 years away from owning a house, assuming everything stays to plan. And I pay my debt off and then we’re able to save up and I don’t go back to gambling