Real Life Gambling Story Number One - Ben

To an outsider Ben had his life sorted. Articulate, intelligent and confident, with a degree in Sports Science he went on to build a successful career for himself in business. There was enough money to enjoy the finer things in life – in theory at least. But Ben was to become under the grips of an addiction to gambling, which led him to lose his livelihood, rake up huge debts and drove him to the point of suicide.

 Read Ben’s story as told to Sarah Marten for Gambling Watch UK.

 “My journey into gambling addiction started in an innocent enough way. Every year my parents took me, with my two older brothers and a friend to Dorset for our summer holiday. Like many families, we visited the penny arcades on the seafront. I was given some money to waste, about a pound which was changed into pennies. I had a great time, and just saw it as harmless fun.

 “It wasn’t until I l left school that I became involved in more serious gambling. Whilst working at my uncle’s pub to raise money for my gap-year travels I started to use the fruit machines. Using these machines gave me pleasurable feelings, and I started to experience a “high” which made me want to play again and again.”

 It got to the point where Ben was losing around 80% of his wages on the machines, which made saving for travel pretty difficult.

 “Gambling was always a solitary activity for me, one that was just about me and my own world. It provided an escape from my problems. Part of me wanted to stop and I thought “this is doing me no good” but I was unable to do so. Losing large sums of money made me feel sick to my stomach, and I was also concerned that my parents would find out.”

 Going away from home to university can be a challenging time for any young person, but Ben managed to stay away from the machines during his first year. But this was soon to change.

 “As my course progressed and the pressure started to mount I started to put all my spare money into gambling again. Gambling became an escape from reality. I started to make excuses about not meeting up with friends. Going out with them was appealing, but I needed my money for something else – gambling. This meant that I was becoming socially alienated. I wanted to be alone – alone in an arcade. My friends had no idea what was going on.

 “During my third year at university I was made a “Hall Senior” which meant that my rent and meals were paid for. There was money left over from my student loan which I spent on fruit machines. The whole of my student loan was gambled in this way. On top of that I had a large bank overdraft for a student - £2000. When added to the student loan I had accrued debts of £5500 - all down to gambling. At this stage I thought “I can stop this if I want to”. But I didn’t really want to.”

 Despite all his problems with gambling Ben obtained his degree and started work. His job involved a commute, and in the evenings he would stop off at the pub near the station and play the fruit machines there. He soon found he was unable to pay his rent, which led to his family becoming aware of his problems for the first time.

 “My mother was hugely supportive and told me about the charity Gamcare, which gave me the support and understanding I badly needed. I thought “at last someone understands what I am going through”. Up until now I had felt stupid, isolated and alone. After contacting Gamcare I felt that a weight had been lifted. I also attended a couple of Gamblers Anonymous meetings, and although I went along with an open mind, it wasn’t really for me.”

 This isn’t the end of Ben’s story. The next two years were starting to look good, with promotions at work, enough money to rent a flat, and the support of close family living nearby.  But the lure of gambling was too strong for Ben to overcome.

 “I found fruit machines enticing and boredom was part of it as well. I’ve always needed lots of stimulation – my mum always said I was a hyperactive child. At this stage my job was going well and I had been given a company car as I needed to travel around the UK. But this travel contributed to my downfall.

 “The job involved regular nights away staying at hotels, which were inevitably close to pubs, and within the pubs were fruit machines. I had more disposable income than ever before, but to pass the time I started gambling again, and regularly lost around £800 to £900 each month in pub fruit machines and arcades. My job started to become much more pressurised, and my gambling basically went through the roof.

 “Games like Reel King and Monkey Business in the arcades were my favourite. I was playing on Category B3 machines with £500 Jackpots, which preceded Fixed Odds Betting Terminals with a multitude of different games. It was easy to lose £200 in one evening or more over the course of a weekend”

 But worse was to come for Ben when he was entrusted with a company credit card, intended for hotel bills and the like. He used the card to fund his gambling addiction, and accrued £1500 in debt.

 “When I lost my job I knew I had hit rock bottom. In some ways there was a sense of relief as I had been found out. This was the worst it could get and I knew I had to put a stop to things once and for all. Even suicide crossed my mind at this stage as a way out. I needed “Big Help” and I knew that.

 “I was very lucky to be offered a place at a residential treatment centre, The Gordon Moody Association. The combination of individual therapy, group cognitive behaviour therapy and just being with people who understood me made all the difference. I was there for fifteen weeks in total. I also had help from the only NHS gambling clinic in the country, based in Soho, London, which was really helpful too. Everyone came from different walks of life, but we were all coming from the same place.

 “Gambling can become an addiction just like drugs or alcohol.  I’ve not gambled for the last eighteen months, but of course I do have urges. Willpower is a big part of my abstinence, and as I’m currently out of work I don’t have the financial means to gamble. The real test will be when I am earning again. Finding something that can replace gambling addiction is difficult, but having a supportive family and friends has made a real difference, along with help from gambling organisations.

 “My advice to other addicts is to realise that you aren’t on your own. Gambling addicts have a real tendency towards isolation. There is help out there, but there isn’t enough. I believe that gambling is going to become an even bigger problem with increasing levels of anti-social behaviour and crime. Schools need to provide education on gambling, in the same way that they do for drugs and alcohol. Children need to know the dangers of gambling. The modern machines create situations which the brain finds addictive, as they are geared to near misses.

 “Gambling addiction will be with me for life. But I feel hopeful for the future, and I plan to work as a volunteer with gambling addicts. Helping others is something I feel I can do.”

 C Copyright 2012 Sarah Marten All Rights Reserved

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Comments (7)

  • hello Permalink

    Thanks for the information. Keep on writing.

    about 3 years ago
  • Anonymous Permalink

    I have always had a gambling problem with fruit machines. Some may call it mild and I thought I had it under control because I can stay off them for over a year at a time. I now realise that I will always have to consciously fight this addiction.

    High stress, bordom and loneliness brings it on. Sometimes Ive got to get out of the house and if I end up in an empty pub on a Tuesday night with nothing to do but fruit machines...then Ive got a relapse brewing.

    I have never bet in a bookies (machines or anything) and dont do online gambling which is great news for me. My weakness has always been the pub fruit machine or town arcade. The weird thing is that other times I am so careful with money until it all goes badly wrong again. It negates all the bargains I had which really depresses me

    The reason Im writing this is Im on a downer from a three week on /off blowout at a local arcade. £400 down overall after up and down stages. I know what they mean about these newer machines being the crack cocaine of gambling. Forced out of the house due to building work started it but I have only myself to blame for not finding something worthwhile to do.

    Sometimes I feel in control, win and walk away. Most of the time I end up in the trance, tilt or brownout. At that stage all of my money is being fed in. Some say the worst thing is assuming that the £100 jackpot will happen again when I need and chase it. I realised that winning the jackpot was never enough and it will all go back in again in the next day or so.

    I think the key is that when I had time to kill, sitting in a cafe, coffee bar or library doesnt do it for me. A grey town in winter and I needed the dopamine highs and lows that the machines give. I see other gamblers and its the same faces. I see people feeding hundreds in and think its daft. Someone should hand me a mirror because Im doing the same thing at a slower pace!

    Im hoping that the downer of losing money will sort me out again. Im in for a frugal few weeks which will make me realise the pain associated with gambling. I could refinance and I have savings which take time to access. The point is I needed that £400 and could have bought something nice with it

    From past experience this downer will prevent me for quite a while. I could only retire to bed afterwards feeling depressed My problem is I thought I had beaten the addiction. I probably never fully will and its a case of a day at a time.

    about 2 years ago
  • Crusty Nipples Permalink

    Excellent peace, thank you for sharing your story Ben.

    about 2 years ago
  • jim Permalink

    I have been gambling as long as I can remember - dogs, horses, fruit machines and now fobts the aforementioned horses and dogs have never been a problem but in my younger years I was obsessed with puggys (fruit machines), I managed to kick that habit but the fobt roulette has a grip on me and I'm struggling to control it. It started some months ago when I got a letter informing me I was in for a big payout from my job ,since the money has landed in my account I have blown thousands. The first time I played the roulette I was in the bookies putting my usual 50p lucky 15 on , I had about £8 change in my pocket and threw it into the machine within 20 min I had £750 collected it and went out happy ,the next day I was doing £50 spins and ended up about £400 up that was me hooked it was easy money.i went back in the next day and lost £1200 then £600 the next day and £1500 the day after , I told myself that was that and wouldn't play these machines again but the pull was too big when I took my partner and kids on holiday to blackpool I started making excuses to get a 30 min so I could get a shot at the roulette each of the first three times a lost between £300 - £400 but fortunately won £1500 on the next trip (told the missus I was going out to watch a game that wasn't on). I didn't touch them for weeks but just recently I have been in everyday losing hundreds sometimes thousands at a time and now my partner has noticed I have started lying and borrowing money from people you shouldn't borrow money off- I'm desperate to stop but the only way out of this seems to be to win it back. sorry for such the long winded post but I needed to get tell someone , thanks for reading

    about 1 year ago
  • Phil Permalink

    Hi there

    Well rock bottom is where I currently sit , been telling myself for months to stop but keep going can't go to GA as that would be an admission that I'm in financial trouble and the Mrs would prob up and leave with the kids

    Told myself I wouldn't get in this mess but I'm 10,000 in debt ! I have a good job and could prob pay it off if the Mrs didn't already manage my money on the up side it's nice to hear there's more than me out there I'm going to be positive and push on through !

    about 1 year ago
  • shdon Permalink

    I have been into online gambling for a period of 7 years must have lost at least 50000 of all hard earned money,lost my wife basically lost my confidence and self esteem.I am however very strong willed and have not taken any help .I think if I had taken help in the first instance it would have helped me like going to GA ,helped save my marriage.I think for every gambler to first acknowledge he has a problem is more important.once you acknowledge it get help as soon. As you can.I am off it now but it is too late now.I have often been suicidal..I will urge anyone to get help as soon as you can if your Mrs or anyone finds out or no.

    about 11 months ago
  • Daniel Permalink

    when i start talking about gambling i feel my story is worse than everyone's is but if it can help someone out there here it is. I started gambling when i enjoyed the university 2007 and started by winning with my first two bets but ever since things have been bad to a level i almost failed to finish my university degree coz i used to gamble my tuition and fail to pay on time for examination so missed out on some of them exams. A three year degree took me 5yrs to finished and i promised myself i was done but after getting a job in a period of one year i started again until i lost it. after losing my job i promised i was done but started again when i got another one to a level i almost lost it as well coz i would gamble all my allowance and do credit transfers on behalf of the company to get money to gamble since i was the manage in change. it got to me when i had gambled all my savings, failed to pay rent for four months and got in big debts that i don't know how to pay back. i still have a job but was demoted that means less pay and respect at work, lost my things in the house coz i sold them to gamble and win back my losses and now my life in a bad state compered to when i had not started gambling and am filled with regrets coz i had the chance to give up but didn't . i hope my story will help someone give up such a bad addictive habit.

    about 6 months ago

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Friday, April 28, 2017
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