Gambler's £100,000 descent into addiction
Figures just released show people in Medway are gambling £200
million a year on fixed betting machines.
A former gambler has now come forward to tell how
the addiction wrecked his life.
The 38-year-old from Rochester, who wants to remain anonymous,
blew £100,000 which led to him losing his home and his partner.
Read his hard-hitting story.
I gambled from a very young age, around eight or nine, where I
started on two penny fruit machines, then graduated to horse racing
when I was in my 20s.
I gambled relatively within my means for this time, I was
overdrawn, ran up some debt and borrowed money on a regular basis
but never enough to cause any serious problems.
About eight years ago, I experienced Fixed Odds Betting
Terminals in the bookmakers for the first time that offered a
It took me to a place where I had never been before - the
compulsion is extraordinary, you can win thousands and lose
thousands in a handful of minutes.
If you win, it gives you such an overpowering sense of euphoria
that you are desperate to repeat the sensation within hours,
If you lose, you are soul-wrenchingly desperate to regain what
you have lost. It is a constant, overwhelming sense of
I remember having my biggest ever win, £7,000, and
collecting it behind the counter, more notes than I had pockets
The next morning, I was back in there and lost all of it, plus
another £1,000 of my wages – my hands were shaking as I fed all the
notes in, hundreds at a time.
The staff see exactly how much is spent behind the counter but
it is never questioned.
I even saw someone who collapsed helped back to his feet and was
allowed to continue playing after ten minutes.
Another had a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop - he was just
standing there playing while the blood flowed all over his clothes
and onto the floor and the staff saw this but did absolutely
There is no company policy in place for people who clearly have
a problem, or if they are mentally disturbed in some way; everyone
is treated the same without exception.
I can imagine how people must feel reading this, understandably
having little sympathy because they see gambling as an active
choice but there is little difference between this, alcoholism,
drug addiction, over-eating or anything along those lines; it
consumes your personality to the point where you act and say things
that you never ordinarily would.
A conservative estimate on what I spent would be in the region
of £100,000, which was gained through wages and extensive borrowing
from family, friends and any financial institution that would open
its doors to me.
It cost me two homes and my partner, as well as straining the
friendships that I had to breaking point.
Four gamble-free years on and I am still trying to balance my
finances out but I consider myself lucky because I came through the
I wish I was the exception to the rule, I wish that I was an
extreme case but to be honest, my story is relatively tame compared
to many others.
"If you win, it gives you such an overpowering sense of euphoria that you are desperate to repeat the sensation within hours, sometimes minutes" – anonymous gambler
I am now involved in
counselling and the vast majority of cases I see are from people
addicted to roulette on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
Someone once called these machines the ‘crack cocaine of
gambling’ - I wouldn’t disagree.
I am an educated, professional person with amazing family and
friends but it turned me inside out and made me a twisted shadow of
a person - it can happen to almost anyone.
I am generally a positive person. I don’t blame the bookmakers
themselves, 12 years ago, they were dying out, the next generation
had no more than a passing interest in horse racing and certainly
not enough to support a whole industry.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals changed everything and created a
multi-billion pound industry, which is why the number of them has
quadrupled in recent years.
But the machines pray on the vulnerable and the needy – there is
no restrictions, no monitoring.
What I do blame is their lack of monitoring and poor
self-exclusion methods. You can walk into any bookmakers, present
ID and two passport-sized photos and ask to be self-excluded for a
period of up to five years.
This is rarely adhered to, plus with a high turnover of staff
and many that rotate on a regular basis, it is (by their own
admission) extremely difficult to maintain.
By law, a landlord is not allowed to serve alcohol to someone
who clearly has consumed too much of it. Bookmakers do nothing to
regulate who is playing their machines and how much they are
People should have the right to say enough is enough and be able
to ban themselves effectively.
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