Harmless fun

People say that gambling is promoted as a casual way to have fun. Gambling companies tell them that gambling is harmless and something that everyone does. Gambling is now all around them. It is a big part of sport, television and other leisure activities. It can be something they do with their friends and important to being part of the group. There is little to no warning that gambling is addictive. People around them are not aware of gambling addiction and it is not widely talked about.

This means that addiction takes them by surprise. It also reinforces the idea that they are at fault and that everyone else is okay with gambling. So, people feel they are the odd one out, that there is something wrong with them, and they are left isolated.

Everyone was in the same boat. Everyone’s betting every week. Everyone’s losing money. It’s a joke at that point. It’s a laugh. You’re joking about having just put £400 on, lost it. You’re going, “Oh, not again,” and your mates are laughing with you. You’ve sat around the table doing the exact same thing, so if your mates are doing it, how is it a problem? I think that was the issue with it.

Found it really difficult because you just don’t see a way out. You think, “Is it just me feeling this way, or is it– Am I on my own here? Why is it just me suffering here, nobody else is? What have I done to deserve this? What have I got– Why am I doing this and nobody else seems to be doing it, just me?”

People point to how commonplace gambling advertising is. They also highlight the positive spin put on gambling in advertising. People mention being bombarded with gambling messaging in many leisure and social spaces. They say because gambling companies can advertise so freely, this makes people in society think gambling is just part of life and a bit of fun.

I support women who are, basically, on their knees because of their loved one’s addiction. They’ve never put a bet on in their life. They are absolutely on the floor. That needs addressing. There’s young people and there’s children that are impacted by it as well and it just feels like we’ve got this whole new generation of young people that are going to have some serious issues in a few years time because it’s so normalized. For males it is so normalized, isn’t it? It is just so they expect everybody does it and it ends up like why have I got the problem with it and becomes that individual thing of there must be something wrong with me because I can’t cope with this. When you look at the amount of adverts and incentives and the emails that can come through, in the end you just think if you left somebody in a room long enough with that, they’re going to go, “Okay, I’ll gamble.” What are adverts there to do – to persuade you to do something? I wait for a train and you can see everybody on their phones and I want to run up behind them and go, “What are you doing?” We’re talking about a number of people but the impacts are huge and life-changing or life-taking sometimes.


In fact, when did I, when were the times I stopped gambling? The times when I stopped gambling was if I ran out of money or I had run out of time. When I mean run out of time, I mean, like, I’m three hours late getting home from work kind of run out of time. It was never oh look at that, I’ve placed that bet, and I won that bet and now I’m going to go home. Or I’ve placed that bet and I’ve lost that bet. Now I’m going to go home. It didn’t matter if I won or lost, I couldn’t stop. So, to know that you’re somebody who is consumed like that and thinking about it twenty-four hours a day, you don’t understand why. I couldn’t understand why that was the case when the world and you know, I’m watching the telly and it’s like people are out having fun according to adverts. You know, the mates are walking down the road talking about putting these bets on together. So why am I sitting in this isolated state feeling horrendous and deserving to feel like this? doesn’t make any sense to me. So, yeah, I just felt like there wasn’t other people like me because the world wasn’t showing it. So that made it incredibly difficult to talk to anyone about it, and it was only in 2015 when I first went to the problem gambling clinic that I suppose my dad then started to realize that there was more to it than kind of me messing up regularly.


Gambling is sometimes an important part of people’s social groups. Those in the group may talk about what they are gambling on and when they win money. It can be a big part of what the group does together.

Friends appear to gamble without experiencing harm or ‘losing control’. People may be aware of others in their social circle getting into debt, or prioritising gambling over other commitments. However this is not understood or talked about in the group as addiction or harm caused by gambling.

So, people feel it is just them and they cannot talk to the people around them about their gambling difficulties. They may not want to ‘spoil other people’s fun’ or seem weak.

I kept it very much to myself. A lot of my mates had – they knew I had a problem with it, but they didn’t quite grasp how bad it was, I don’t think. And yeah, it put me off talking to people.

It was so much more easier to take part in this activity. It was all very open and honest and fun. It was. I won’t lie. It was at the time and I suppose that created the foundations for later on is perhaps what started off as a good thing– and for a lot of people in the country who can still gamble, well, as the saying goes gamble responsibly without it really an affecting them, more power to them.

That very same guy who introduced us, although sometimes he’s admitted he has a problem, I think as far as I’m aware, he still gambles on and off and he is able to do that. The other two people– we have three people. Another one doesn’t have a problem gambling. I don’t keep in touch with another lad who left. One of them has gotten a bit of debt with gambling before, but has stopped and it doesn’t bother him anymore.

The other one, actually, won 3.8 million on gambling. He’s my brother-in-law. It swings in roundabouts and now I’m the other one. For me, I would safely say that it went worse for me than it did anybody else in there, and that’s fine because that’s just life. I acknowledge where and who I am at this moment in time and that’s fine, but it’s hard to explain. It’s not very easy.


It was so hard to talk about it, and it’s hard to talk about it because it’s so normal. And my dad’s gambled in his life, you know. He doesn’t now, actually, but he didn’t have – when I say he gambled, you know, it was rare, but he’d go in the casino if he was on a cruise or if he was on a holiday somewhere and really enjoy it but leave when he wanted to having spent not a lot of money. And he would sometimes play on fruit machines but that was it. I was very different to that, and I guess as well, I couldn’t work out why, you know, why can’t I stop?

Sorry, just quickly, I’ve just remembered going back to your other question about the addiction of gambling, I think the secrecy and the stigma is a massive thing. I mentioned that it’s not as visible an addiction as others and that feeds that paranoia, secrecy, shame. You start to bottle a lot up; you don’t even know you’re absorbing it, you’re internalizing it, you’re carrying it around, you become quite cynical. You hear about others that maybe have a bet and you hear their stories and if you’re a thoughtful gambler and you do a lot of self-analysis, you can pick up the signs that are classic patterns of behaviour; shouting about the wins but covering up the losses.


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