Former gambler: ‘I lost my wife, my house and my family’

I am sure anyone reading this knows exactly how disgraceful a lot of companies in the online gambling industry are with regards to not only self exclusions but also the hard core spamming and pestering addicts to come back and play. The worst thing is that most of these companies do not even remove players from their mailing lists when they self exclude due to problem gambling. Some go so far as to mail from supposedly separate companies and bypass the self exclusions this way. Here is one such gambling addicts story:

Justyn Larcombe, 47, from Kent, tells how free bets kept luring him back while trying to break his addiction

Gambling was an escape for me. It was a place I would go to when reality was too hard to bear. Reality was especially hard when I had lost a lot of money. I thought I could win it all back and it would all be OK.

I was addicted to the release of endorphins you get when you spend money you cannot afford but I was also addicted to the physical act of placing a bet.

As an addict, I self-excluded a few times from websites but then I would move house and sign up again with a new address. I would get an email from another site saying here is a £50 free bet, and I convinced myself that wasn’t really gambling as it was free, so offers like that would lure me back in.

I would get into a pattern of self-excluding and then signing up again. It would have been so much easier if, when you self-excluded, you were just automatically blocked from all websites and there was no way back in. If there’s a loophole then it’s easy to take advantage of it.

I know some websites are also notoriously bad for not cracking down when people have self-excluded, so they will take some time to respond. Sometimes people can sign up again with just one digit different in their email, using the same name. It’s also really hard to self-exclude – they ask, are you sure? It’s a tiny little icon on the screen.

It’s not just online, high street self-exclusion is just as hard. I know from friends that they [shop employees] don’t always make proper checks and sometimes turnover of staff means people fall through the cracks.

I am no longer gambling but when I did it took over my life. It’s important that people have a way to get out and companies should help those who are addicted.

I didn’t gamble until I was 40 and saw an advert for an online £5 free bet which I took. I actually started placing bets because I found out my son had a disability at 11 months old and I think it was my way of coping with that.

Gambling took over my life. I ended up losing my wife, my house and my family. While I am not anti-gambling myself I know I would not place another bet again. I would love to see the industry making more effort to help problem gamblers.

Thanks once again to The Guardian newspaper for publishing this story