My name is Dean. I’m a recovering compulsive gambler – and it’s a pleasure to have become a Gamvisory Portal Member. I haven’t placed a bet since 12.30pm Wednesday 4th April 2017 in Nunhead Lane, London SE4. It was on that very day in 2017 – in a South London bookie, that I decided “enough was enough” and that I simply couldn’t afford to lose anymore money (not that I had any £££ left!!). I was up to my eyes in debt and more importantly, I was about to lose my family – and my mind (if I hadn’t lost it already!?). I was in mental and physical pain. I was numb. A shell of a man. Broken. I had to stop the madness. As a child of the 1980’s – I remember being more attracted to the fruit machines, donkey derby, the horse racing machine and playing cards rather than Space Invaders or Pac-Man – as other kids my age. One thing I remember as a child, I was never stopped from playing fruit machines by arcade staff or bar staff.
However, it wasn’t until around 1992 – that I started going into the betting shops (under aged) to place my first few bets. To start with – it was only football accumulators that I bet on. But on 8th June 1999, I placed my first bet on a horse. The horse was called – A Touch of Frost (my surname). And yes! You’ve guessed it – it won! It romped home at 33-1 – For a fiver it returned of £165. My easiest ever winner! I remember it as clear as day. As soon as I won – my first thought was “that was easy money”. Not being grateful with the winning amount I said, “why didn’t I have more money on”?
My thinking was, “I can make a living out of this”! Why go to work, when I can win it? From that moment – it certainly was never my intention to become so addicted and consumed by the madness of gambling that then beheld me. But little did I know – what lay ahead. Was I to know how painful and demoralising my gambling life was to be back then – I would never have started. If’s, but’s and maybe’s. “Should have” & ”could have” are most gamblers favourite words. Placing that bet – I sampled winning and what it felt like. There was no finer feeling. I can only describe it as the biggest buzz, adrenaline rush and high – exhilaration ever. I loved that feeling. From that day on – my life was to change and I was to quickly become a compulsive gambler.
Gradually I started to frequent betting shops more and more. It started out as weekly, then daily and then hourly – I couldn’t stay out of them. I loved it, I felt at home, I enjoyed being in there. It was my escape from reality. I used to run into the betting shops to place that bet. It was better than working – it was certainly more exciting! But as I began to spend more and more time gambling I then begun to lose more and more money. My stakes increased, the time I spent gambling increased. It’s all I did. I lived for it. I had to bet on every race (horses, dogs, virtual racing, South Africa, Germany & American racing) and on things I didn’t have a clue about (2nd division Scottish Football). Once my money was placed over the counter – I got butterflies in my stomach and adrenaline would start to pump…..the handlers loading up the horses or dogs was even exciting!! I loved the uncertainty.
But eventually I got out of control and could not stop. I would start the day with the intention not to gamble – but by late morning / early afternoon I would be back in the bookies gambling. I was off again. Once I placed that first bet I couldn’t stop until my money ran-out. That was my gambling experience. As a consequence of my gambling – I became a liar, dishonest, irritable, discontented, impatient, disconnected from family and friends, nervous plus lots more. Gambling ripped me to pieces. It took me to the cleaners. My analogy of compulsive gambling is – it’s like being in a boxing ring with Muhammad Ali for 12 rounds – and getting knocked down in the 1st but getting up and going back for more punishment. And repeating it for 12 rounds over and over.
Like my gambling – I simply needed to surrender and throw the towel in. I wouldn’t wish compulsive gambling on my worse enemy. Gladly, after a number of years battling the disordered gambling, I’ve finally arrested the problem. I attend a fellowship of other disordered gamblers where we share our experiences, strength and hope with each other. Thankfully, I’m now 3 years without a bet – and want to share my story, help others and raise awareness of the predatory side of the gambling industry – and its aggressive nature of advertising – as we see today.
It’s a growing industry and I believe the government and governing bodies could do more to prevent longer term problems for many people. This in 2020 – is just the tip of the iceberg – and I want to help prevent people going down the road I went down. I truly believe we are going to see an epidemic of disordered gamblers (if we aren’t already) in the UK – the increase in advertising only proves what impact it has on people. Sadly, gambling is glamourised – and it’s far from glamorous. Unfortunately the harsh reality of problem gambling is prison, homelessness, divorce, separation from children, mental institutions and death. That’s the real impact of gambling.
This industry is only going to grow if nobody opposes or fights it. I say thanks to Gamvisory for inviting me onto The Gamvisory Portal – hopefully I can help the organisation with my lived experience of gambling and help the organisation grow to get into the heart of matter.