“Hi my name is Thomas and I’m an addicted gambler”… “Hi Thomas”.
This is the sort of thing you see on American TV and movies. It is a cliche. From my experience I’ve never been to a GA (Gamblers Anonymous) meeting where anyone has done this introduction. But as an introduction to my own little article it works quite well!
How did I become a gambling addict? When I was a teenager I used to hang around in pubs, snooker halls, bookies, cafe’s, etc. All places where fruit machines would be standing flashing, trying to draw a punter in. It all started innocently enough with couple of quid here and there whilst hanging out with my mates but after a couple of years I found myself going to these places by myself with the sole purpose of playing the fruit machines. I would find myself waiting for my pay check every month and heading straight out after work for a gamble. This continued for a couple of years without causing any major issues (my bills were always paid) other than not having any spare money for clothes or fun activities. Until one point where I was so deep into the need to gamble that I went a few months without paying my rent and ended up being evicted from my flat.
I had hidden my growing gambling addiction from colleagues and friends outside of my gambling circle but when I found myself homeless I told a close colleague about my troubles who took me in for a few months to allow me to find my feet but only on the understanding I would go to GA meetings.
This was back in the nineties and the world was a very different place back then. At the GA meetings there were almost exclusively male participants. Guys who were addicted to casinos, underground poker games, horse racing and the odd fruit machine addict (We were in the minority).
Going to GA was the best thing I ever did, after a month I had one last big blow out losing about 500 quid over the course of a whole day. I felt physically sick and decided to place a 300 quid bet on a single horse race as one big last ever gamble. My horse actually won, I collected my winnings and vowed never to gamble again. After another month of GA meetings I felt completely clean and did not gamble again for twenty years.
Then one day in about 2013 I decided to have a single flutter on Wimbledon (the tennis). Rather than head into a high street bookmaker I opened up an account with an online bookie and played a number of bets over the course of the tournament. At the end of the tournament I had broken about even but instead of withdrawing my money I noticed the online slots at the casino. I went to try them out out of curiosity, wondering how things might have changed over the years, but not really knowing much about what I was doing. And by some unfortunate miracle I managed to make a couple of grand from my initial 100 quid starting point.
Getting a big win is far more dangerous to a beginner than losing because it draws you into the seedy world of thinking you can make money gambling. I soon without realising it found myself hooked on online slot machines. I should have known better but denial is a gamblers best friend. I was addicted.
My financial situation is of course far better than it was as a kid but with that comes the ability to finance a gambling addiction far higher. And online casinos allow you to gamble at much higher stakes than ever before. Where old school fruit machines cost 25 pence per spin, online slot machines can have you playing hundreds of pounds per spin. No wonder the new slot machines are dubbed “high street crack cocaine machines”.
I could easily lose a thousand pounds per day at an online casino. Within a year I had blown away all of my hard earned savings I had made over the last two decades. I had stopped spending any money on anything other than bills and gambling. Online casinos were always there, on my phone, on my work computer, on my laptop at home. There seems no escape from their evil. I have actually had some big wins during my time. I’ve probably won over 50,000 in progressive jackpots but pretty much lost all of that within days of winning it.
I tried everything to try and win, I’ve opened up so many casino accounts for the welcome bonus it is impossible to keep track. I’ve tried the systems and cheats but as a gambling addict it is simply impossible to win. You cannot ever win, make a profit or recover your losses. Yes the professionals really do win but they are so few and far between and do not play like the average Joe. I could win right now, can deposit a couple of hundred and build it to over a grand by the end of the day but the problem is that at some point along the way, by the end of the day I will have had a rush of blood to the head and blown the lot in minutes. Winning a small amount take a long time but losing a big amount can take minutes. And the more time you spend gambling, the easier it is to blow your balance in no time. It’s just how it goes and I’m sure if you have read this far then you have done the same many times yourselves. It’s just impossible.
One day I found myself struggling to pay my rent. It was at this point I had had enough and found a new GA meeting. I had to stop before I lost everything. A homeless gambling addict approaching 50 would receive far less sympathy than I did as a kid.
Gambling has changed so much over the last decade. At the GA meetings nearly all the members are now addicted to online gambling of sort or other. And there is a far broader cross section of society there. Male and female, all ages and from all walks of life. In the past you generally had to be exposed to gambling by chance or by the influences around you. These days online casinos are advertising everywhere. Half of Premiership football clubs are sponsored by casinos. Most major sporting tournaments are sponsored by casinos. And they are so accessible. You can sneak in and out without anyone ever knowing.
The governments must take a responsibility. Tobacco advertising has been banned and alcohol advertising greatly reduced. All of these have been replaced by a potentially far more dangerous drug in gambling. Gambling costs lives and costs pain and misery all around. It is a silent killer. But so easy and available. Gambling advertising should really be banned, plain and simple. You don’t have a snooker tournament sponsored by Heroin dealers, you don’t have Manchester United sponsored by a crystal meth laboratory. Yet online gambling is just as addictive and potentially dangerous.
So what else can I tell you to put you off?
Well I got phone calls every single day from casinos trying to reel me in. I got flyers in the post, hundreds of emails every day and dozens of text messages every week. The only way to get out was to change my phone number and email address.
I have also been shafted by a number of online casinos. Most of them make it so difficult to verify yourself that by the time you have verified you have lost all the winnings you had won. Coincidentally as soon as my balance would hit zero, 5 minutes later I would receive an email saying my account was now verified. I’ve had casinos refuse to pay me point blank due to vague “terms and conditions breaches” which they would not explain any further.
I’ve had winnings confiscated for various reasons, I’ve had casinos deducting bonus amounts multiple times for the same bonus, I’ve had my account closed while there was money still in it and not been able to get them to respond to my complaints. You name it, I’ve seen it.
I’ve also noticed just how most casino portal websites are only interested in getting you to lose your money through their links. They will lie and cheat and do anything to try and have you use their links to casinos. They have as low morals as the rogue casinos they recommend. The slot cheats and slot strategies on these sites are laughable at best and the casino and slot reviews you find on the internet are anything but honest reviews, these guys will do anything they can to sell you down the river.
The whole gambling industry stinks to high heaven, from the software makers, the casino chains, the affiliate schemes, affiliate website, the casino staff, etc. It is an absolute disgrace that governments allow these operations to continue. While they make make a bit of money through taxes, the ultimate cost to the economy of a nation of gamblers is far greater than the income they could ever earn. And that is if the casinos actually pay their taxes honestly which if the way they treat their customers is any indication then I’m pretty sure they cheat on their taxes too. After all, they are generally based in tax havens already!
To make a long story short, please do not gamble. You are only throwing your money away. I appreciate what Steve, Mark and Nick are trying to do with this website and I will continue to occasionally give them some pointers about the dangers from my own experiences but I really cannot stress enough: Don’t ever even start gambling!
I have been clean for six months now and returning to Gamblers Anonymous was the best thing I ever did (again). I quit just before I lost everything and it was not a moment too soon.
You can find more gambling addiction stories on this page.