Real Life Gambling Story Number Two - John

John seemed to have it all - a well-paid job, his own home, a wife and two lovely daughters. But beneath this normal and seemingly happy exterior, John was facing a daily battle with an addiction to online gambling. He accrued debts of almost £60,000 as a result of his gambling addiction, which brought him to the brink of family breakdown.

 John talked to Sarah Marten for Gambling Watch UK about his experiences of gambling addiction.

 “Where I used to live as a child there was a big travelling fair every year, and my parents often took me along. I wasn’t really keen on the fairground rides, and I drifted towards the flashing lights of the arcades. I ended up spending my pocket money playing the one-arm bandits by myself.  Family holidays by the sea provided another opportunity for me to visit amusement arcades, and it didn’t seem harmful at the time. However as I got older, I also played the machines at local cafés and arcades, playing video poker games. Playing card games such as pontoon with my friends were another way to pass the time.”

 Once he left school, gambling started to become more of a problem for John. He moved away from home to go to college, and for the first time in his life John had money in his pocket to spend. And spend it he did – within the familiar and enticing environment of the amusement arcades.

 “Going to college was a big thing for me, and I didn’t really feel that comfortable there to be honest. I felt I was out of my depth, and because there was quite a lot of free time I started missing classes here and there.  Instead of using my college grant to pay my rent, I spent it in the arcades. I ended up losing a lot of money, but I always hoped that I’d win back what I lost the following day.  This never happened. Eventually I had to ask my Grandmother to bail me out, although she didn’t know the reason why I ran out of money so quickly. Neither did my parents.

 “I think my gambling was triggered initially by several things – leaving school and home, going to college and probably just immaturity. After one year at college I moved back home, but still spent lots of money on gambling. After leaving college things became more manageable – I got a good job and although I was still gambling, I was able to walk away. At this stage I was visiting the bookies to gamble on horses and dogs as well as playing fruit machines in arcades and pubs.”

 Life proceeded in a normal way for John for a few years. He did well at work, met and married his wife and had two children. However, things changed as pressure built in his job and he was asked to work away from home for part of each week.

 “Work was going well, but I had been asked to undertake a large project and looking back I was probably overstretched. I was working really long hours, and spending Tuesday to Thursday away from home every week. There wasn’t really any time to de-stress. On Mondays and Fridays I worked from home, which was great in that it enabled me to see my family.”

 But whilst working from home on his computer John soon became drawn into the world of online gambling, something that almost lost him his marriage. Gambling online was all too easy.

 “You don’t even see the money when you gamble online. You use your debit or credit card, and before you know what is happening you are placing higher and higher stakes and losing so much money. My gambling online started to escalate so that I was eventually losing thousands of pounds each month. The video poker games were the worst for me – I just spent more and more money and time on them.

 “These huge losses made me feel sick to my stomach. The more I lost, the more I wanted to win back what I’d lost the next day. I did have some wins, but they never compensated for what I’d lost. At this stage I just couldn’t tell my wife what was going on. It was all a secret. She trusted me completely.”

 The trust of John’s wife was to be tested to its limits, as he took out loans, applied for new credit cards and cashed in endowments.

 “One day I was driving past a car showroom and I realised that I could have bought any car there with the money that I had spent on gambling. But I still couldn’t stop. It took another few years of lies and more loans before I had run out of money. Eventually I had to own up to my wife. I knew I needed to tell her, but it took so much courage.

 “My greatest fear was that my wife would leave me. When I broke the news to her it was totally devastating, coming as it did as a complete surprise. I am very lucky as she stood by me. But the trust between us has been damaged, and she often questions me about money these days. Gambling had turned me into a liar, and I was only interested in myself. I was not a good Dad to my girls, and I had forced my wife to go back to work to help pay the bills when I knew it was me spending the money.

 “Once I had told my wife it felt like a weight had been lifted. She encouraged me to go along to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, which I did, choosing a meeting several miles away from my home town. I didn’t want to run into anyone I knew. 

 “Once I went to Gamblers Anonymous I had a real sense of hope. I met others like me - up until then I thought I was the only person in the world who had problems with gambling. GA has a 12-Step programme and to be honest it did take me a while to get into it. But it soon became clear that this was just what I needed. GA has helped me to become a better person, and indeed a better parent to my girls.”

 One element of GA groups and any 12-Step programme is the notion of a Higher Power. Members come to believe “that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity”. Some people might label this Higher Power as God, others something less concrete.

 “For me the Higher Power is more about the support of the other group members. You are never judged, and when you listen to other stories it helps you realise that you are not alone. I found I could identify with the stories of the other people. My wife goes along to the support group for families, Gam -Anon, and she has found that really helpful too. GA has helped me to lead a normal life.”

 John had amassed debts from gambling totalling almost £60,000, which he is now paying back over a period of 15 years.  He went along to the Citizen’s Advice bureau where staff helped him to prepare a debt management plan.

 “These days I am careful about my work life balance, I try to avoid too much stress, and I’ve also found other ways of coping with life’s pressures. I haven’t any urge to gamble at all - my focus is on being a better person and dealing with issues as they arise. One of my children is now a teenager, and I now feel better equipped than ever to deal with any problems that might arise. The GA Serenity Prayer is very helpful.  And helping others, such as new members of GA is also very rewarding. Having other interests also makes a big difference – word puzzles, listening to music, reading novels and playing sports with my children all work for me.

 “The people who are coming to GA are getting much younger - we have members as young as 15 or 16. And it’s the casino-style Fixed Odds Betting Terminals that are causing all the problems. Around 80-90% of our members had become addicted to these machines. Gambling is an addiction and is growing. Government needs to listen to this, and limit both the number of machines and the stakes.”

 C Copyright 2012 Sarah Marten All Rights Reserved

People in this conversation

Comments (7)

  • Paul Permalink


    I'm in a similar mess, if not worse.. Are you able to share an update?

    about 4 years ago
  • Nev Permalink

    I'm a addict it's really hard to give up I really have tried but no luck. I'm a young father and have a wife along with 3 beautiful daughters. I spend around 500 + on gambling and always have to lie. I feel so trapped and I hate it.

    about 3 years ago
  • Miah Permalink

    I lost a lot of money gambling around 40k of which 20k was not mine. i am young father of 1 beautiful girl. I used to lie to my wife and be selfish when it came to money, when my wife wanted to buy something I would always make excuses as to "we dont have money" however when it came to me gambling i somehow had money to gamble. Everyday i was chasing previous days lost money and hardly won cause i was constantly chasing big money, I felt heart broken when i told my wife over a year ago that I have gambled our first house deposit money and on top of that im in another 25k debt. My wife was in tears for days and there was nothing I can do to help her. She has been side by side with me and has always supported me when i most needed it. I have been gambling since 16 and i hope I never go back into gambling because it is soo addictive that you don't realise you are losing money on these online betting sites as yu don't see the money. Now I have brought our first home and I'm still paying my 25k debt slowly and hopefully have it paid in the next 2 to 3 years. I realised there is nothing in life which is easy money. Be patient and everything yu want will come along someday. Money doesn't bring happiness family does so instead of losing money gambling spend it on the family on vacations and gadget atleast then yu can look back and see your money went into great use and not gambled away in a matter of minutes. Just want to finish off by saying be patient in life and all your wants can be brought all in good time. When you have an itch to gamble talk to your wife and keep yourself busy and stop watching and going on any sites that has anything to do with betting.

    about 2 years ago
  • For me, a female and I already had anxiety issues throughout adulthood and younger due to abuse and in 2015 developed worse issues such as PTSD due to a rape. I gambled,it seems, way way over £100k, well over, on online 'games' I can barely remember as I have huge chunks of memory loss... it literally became obsessive too I guess looking at what I have done, I have always played games on a DS/GameCube years ago thankfully free and I am desperately trying to a) remember and b) understand why. The last 10 years were more stressful in a zillion ways to include bereavements and I haven't grieved because I can't seem to. I have not gambled since January when I was in hospital and noticed I had spent money with a gambling company a few days into being in hospital... I was shocked and it halted there... I have not gambled since... there is nothing to show for any of it, I have asked That company for details of when I opened my account (they were emailing me daily but later I was emailed to be told I was no longer a VIP)... good! But they haven't bothered replying. The worst part is not remembering huge chunks of when I did spend money and worse than that I hurt people I wouldn't dream of hurting. Our family home has gone. Thankfully I hold on to the love for my child which no money can replace. Now, I won't be able to see my child much soon unless visiting and who needs me and with the anxiety I have plus other symptoms I have googled suicide a million times but that's not and never will be an option as I have seen what that does to those left behind, but it has exacerbated PTSD symptoms which in turn creates memory issues and confusion and for what? Nothing, and I barely remember the games either... I have no desire to gamble nor drink and yet on sites even such as Shpock there are adverts for piles of gambling online sites with free this and that, I'm on them to sell unused items not gamble... those with mental health issues or high stress levels I believe are very vulnerable to the ease of play as is anyone really..if I could undo it all I would and I will campaign for better regulation of online gambling as well as support for those experiencing any mental health issues too. My own GP referred me urgently to my local CMHT who took WEEKS to reply recently ... shocking frankly. So you can gamble excessively or drink excessively or do anything excessively but more so if it is easily accessible I guess. I don't care about me, I do care about my family and those I love and have hurt.. that is hard to forgive myself for. More recently I had emails from a gambling company whom I don't even remember having an account with but saying I had a balance and they would be taking charges every 28 days or something. I have no idea what that is so I am not logging into it ever which is fine as I don't know my password anyway and have no idea what a PIN is for it either which scares me. I don't recall feeling anything at all whether I won or didn't and can only go by staring at old bank statements to see what a flipping mess one can get themselves into... without ever going into a 'bookies'. At nearly 50 my career will go and that's fine, the hurt I've caused and will cause when I have to tell my child I won't be there is frankly heartbreaking and I am amazed my partner is still here.. I take full responsibility and just hope that one day I can help someone else to avoid all of this somehow. I agree that it is literally everywhere, rugby earlier, a betting company name splattered everywhere... whether hooked or playing for other reasons I hope that this story will make just one person pause and wait and think... speak to someone, forget about shame, we are just humans... I'd rather cross stitch than gamble.. in fact I'd rather uhu my hands to a wall if I ever had the urge to gamble again.

    about 2 years ago
  • Nikki Permalink

    For me gambling has ruined everything I had got myself into about debt throughout the years through various forms of gambling to the point where I would get paid and all of it would be spent and often borrowed more. In September 2017 I had to come come clean to my girlfriend , friends and family to which I was highly ashamed of myself and had just been bottling it away for years but my irkfriend helped me out a plan in place to pay the money off and get help to which I did . I changed careers from the racing industy and went started a new careee in marketing I found myself very quickly being able to clear the debt and enjoying life again with a very supporting girlfriend. I really though I had turned a corner I had money behind me for the first time in years a decent job and most of all a living relationship. Unfortunately in January 2018 I related to this day I don’t know why I did it and I’ve asked myself 1000 times and I still can’t find the answer but the hard work was all undone in the blind of an eye. I wish on that first occasion I had made the phone call to my girlfriend and let her know i had an urge to do it as I know she would have stopped me instead I covered it up for 3 weeks and gambled behind her back to the heartbreaking consequences of losing her through trust issues. I still have a job I still have my life but I’ve lost my world because of my addiction It’s very sad for me reading other people’s stories as i know they will be feeling the same as i Do. I guess the only way is back up for everyone in life and with help and support from loved ones I hope we all manage it

    about 1 year ago
  • Nono Permalink

    Gambling is a bad dream ..we just must wake up ASAP

    about 1 year ago
  • Kucky Permalink

    I have gambled for 15 years and lost over 100k. I stopped gambling few years back and feel how foolish I was. Most of friends have bought 3 to 4 houses and getting ready for retirement. I can only say GAMBLING IS WORST THAN POISION.

    about 5 months ago

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Thursday, October 17, 2019
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