‘I lost £12k in one night playing online poker’
Addicts reveal their gambling horror stories to the Sunday Herald
Gamblers Anonymous Scotland offers peer support meetings and a 12-step programme of recovery to hundreds of compulsive gamblers. Members have revealed their struggle with addiction to the Sunday Herald on the condition that their names are not published. “My worst day was when I lost £12,000 in one night playing online poker,” said one member. “I got a warning message from the game but that was after I’d spent all the money. That was money I’d saved for a deposit on a flat. I remember the despair and the shame and the guilt when the sun came up the next day.
“I would gamble daily. Sometimes would be on the computer for hours, sometimes 10 minutes. Sometimes I’d go in and go light but sometimes I’d have less time and bet a lot. More often than not it wouldn’t go my way. I worked out that I probably lost around £70,000 in five years.
“In our meetings we say you can’t smell the cards on people’s breath. You won’t see someone staggering around the street after losing £12,000 but it’s every bit as damaging [as alcohol]. Gambling addiction can be a very private thing, particularly online. You’re just not seeing people face to face. You can’t be recognised. There must be a system which gets in the way of people’s gambling before they break the bank. It seems to be more accepted by society. Gambling is fun for a lot of people, the same as drinking, but the despair, shame, guilt and suicidal thoughts some experience hasn’t been taken into consideration as it becomes more accessible.”
Another member of Gamblers Anonymous began betting in pubs before “progressing” to online gaming.
He said: “I started gambling in my late teens with slot machines in pubs and those daft quiz machines. I never thought that I had a problem even though at the time I could be standing at the machines for one or two hours while my mates all sat down and had a laugh. I used to pile money into those machines when I was out though my mates would urge me to leave them alone and come enjoy my night out. I never thought anything of it putting £20, £40, or £60 in and getting nothing back. I progressed from there to online gambling. It didn’t take a big loss – although I had my fair share of them – to come to Gamblers Anonymous, I was found out by my girlfriend looking at my bank statements and seeing where all my wages were going every month. It was destroying my life and the people I cared about most around me.”