‘I lost £12k in one night play­ing on­line poker’

Sunday Herald - - INSIDE STORY -

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.”

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