Depressed young man with his face in his hands

Gambling Addiction

Nearly all of us like a ‘flutter’, but the NHS estimates that for as many as 450,000 people in the UK gambling becomes a problem that can tear the heart out of a family and its finances. So would you recognise the signs if there were a problem gambler in your house? And who can you turn to for help?

DAN’S STORY (His name and details have been changed)

“I was sixteen when I first got a Saturday job. Unfortunately, that meant working in a betting office. I would work on the till taking and paying out the customers bets.

“When I was 18, I went to University. These were, without doubt, the best three years of my life. I still worked in the betting offices during holiday periods and would often place small bets to help pass the time when there.

“After college I moved to Glasgow to continue my education. I can accurately pinpoint the second year of my stay as when I started to gamble regularly and seriously. By seriously, I
mean that, in my mind, I was no longer gambling for fun. I was gambling to try and win
money that I believed I needed to survive.

“After a while, I got a job in Swindon. It was only agency work and did not pay very well, and Swindon was an expensive place to live. I started running out of money, mainly due to going out six or seven nights a week and enjoying myself. I was paid weekly which I tended to spend on going out, leaving me little or no money to pay my monthly rent. I soon found myself with increasing levels of debt. Obviously, I turned to the bookies to solve my cash
flow problems. They didn’t, and the levels of debt continued to increase.

“After four years of living in Swindon, I was offered a way out. My parents agreed to clear my debts and helped me find a job. I had a large loan, a couple of credit cards, a store card and two overdrafts. I allowed my parents to pay off everything except the smaller of the overdrafts. This overdraft was less than five per cent of my total debts yet, for some reason I felt unable to own up to it. By keeping this one overdraft I never managed to be totally clear of debt. Consequently, I continued to gamble with the aim of paying it off as quickly as possible, the result being that I never had much money and was always borrowing money off my parents.


“After a year in my new job, my fiancée moved in with me. I was still gambling regularly and, consequently, had very little money. I took out a loan to buy a car. When it turned out that I did not have to spend any of it on a car, I used some of it to clear debts and left the rest in my bank account.

“By now, my fiancée was aware that I gambled and kept my bank card in her purse. Several
times I removed my card from her purse, withdrew some money and replaced it without
her knowing.

“Around this time, the roulette machines were being introduced to betting offices and once I started playing them the amounts that I gambled increased rapidly, not surprisingly, so did my losses. Over a period of a few months, I completely emptied my account. With almost the last of this money, I had an accumulator come up. Not only did it pay enough to replace all the money that I had taken out of my account, it also left some over to continue gambling.

“All I had to do was pay the correct amount into the account, intercept the next bank statement in the post (not a problem as I had been doing this for the last few months) and I would be in the clear. I will never understand why I chose not to do this. For not only did I continue to gamble, I gambled much larger amounts than before. In less than a week, all my winnings had gone. On the Friday of that week, I removed my bank card from my fiancée’s
purse and took out hundreds of pounds.

“When I returned home, I safely replaced my card in my fiancée’s purse as I had done numerous times before. However, this time she noticed it had been missing and confronted me. I do not know if it was the amount of money that I had lost, the speed with which I had lost it or the frantic nature of my latest gambling episode which scared me the most.

“Anyway, I admitted to taking the card, and that I had nearly emptied my account. I didn’t, however, admit to the fact that I still had some money hidden in my car. She had already planned to spend the weekend with her parents in Kent so left immediately.


“Any hopes that I had of sweeping this mess under the carpet were extinguished later that evening when I received a call from my dad informing me that he had spoken to my very tearful fiancée and knew what I had done. With my secret out, I went to see my mother. I remember her asking me to promise that I would stop gambling straight away. I did this, even though I had every intention of spending the afternoon in the bookies with the
money I had left in the car. That afternoon I lost all my remaining money.

“With nowhere left to turn and under no illusion that I would be expected to answer some difficult questions when my fiancée returned, I looked up gambling addiction on the computer and found the Gamblers Anonymous website. I called the helpline (see below) and spoke to a woman. Other than her informing me that there was a meeting near me, I don’t remember anything that she said. I do, however, remember that when our conversation was finished, I felt a sense of ease which I had not experienced for a long time.

“In a surprisingly short amount of time, things started to improve. Almost overnight I stopped lying, simply because I had nothing to lie about. With proper budgeting, our finances improved. For the first time in years I experienced the relief of being able to pay all my bills on time. I was no longer spending every waking hour fretting or fantasising about gambling. Most importantly, I quickly came to realise that not only could I get through a day without having a gamble, I found that I didn’t want to gamble. Now my fiancée has become my wife and we’ve had two children.”

Or do you live with someone who has? Read Quids in!‘s help guide here or you can contact:

National Gambling Helpline
0808 8020 133

Gamblers Anonymous
Help and support for problem gamblers with local meetings across the country
National:  020 7384 3040
Scotland:  08700 50 88 81

Helps the families and partners of gamblers to cope

The Big Deal
Help for under 25s who might have a gambling problem

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