A brief intro…
I am a serving Police Officer of over 20 years whose been front line, CID , supervised, managed serious investigations, held public meetings, dealt with countless prisoners, lead operations and warrants, held briefings and have done most typical activities one would expect for a dedicated Police Officer with this length of service.
I generally work hard and have always been passionate about my work. I have never had any disciplinary action taken against me and have never had a day off sick other than a couple of sporting injuries. I enjoy a challenge, am very competitive, love my sport, a beer, enjoy the basic things in life and those packed with adrenalin. I have a family who care and a good circle of personal friends.
I believe I am relatively well liked and respected amongst friends and work colleagues. I am particularly resilient regarding my own personal wellbeing and perhaps a little too sensitive when it comes to others, or so I am told.
I am certainly not an individual who is outspoken or thinks too much of himself or has ever taken himself too seriously.
I think what I’m getting at here with that tiny bit of personal information is that I am a dedicated Police Officer and a person who is far from unique, just an average unassuming person and not one who wishes to stand out in a crowd. Like everybody, I have my faults. Numerous no doubt, but there is one which will be hidden amongst so many others which can be so destructive.
I am a Compulsive Gambler.
This isn’t written for attention or personal reward. If there is a reward it will come from highlighting the issue and helping people who need it. And I’m not interested in personal attention.
Within the last couple of years, I bet on and watched a golfer putt the ball on the 18th hole of his final round to win £9,000. But it felt like it could have been a tenner. Upon winning I just finished my brew, went to bed, got up for work the following day and said nothing to anybody about my win. The money I’d won just clawed back debt, and then the reality was that the money I’d just “won” was simply more ammunition to continue gambling. That next day I put £1,000 on England in a cricket match to double my money on that bet. They won. £10,000 “up” in two days. As usual I thought I was on a roll. I soon was on a roll but typically I was rolling the wrong way because within a couple of weeks I’d lost the lot….and then in attempts to repay the debt I had again managed to accrue, I managed to lose so much more.
This “experience” was nothing new to me. It had been a constant theme for many years. The amounts were different. But debt and constant stress was something I managed to live with and was all part of the addiction. I’ve tried to estimate how much I have lost. It’s impossible to tell, but it would be more than a life changing amount right now if I was to get it back and would swamp any retirement sum, I’ll be due in the future. I have many ways of putting that lost money into perspective, and that’s one of them. I’ll be working at least another seven to ten years to obtain an amount of money which still doesn’t compare with what I have lost. That’s another. What is done is done and I won’t get that money back. And as much as I do regret this, there is little point dwelling on it. However, what is more to the point, is the time I have lost to gambling, now that is a different matter. I will always regret that, and I will NEVER get that back.
Gambling has NO boundaries and is promoted more by greedy celebrities and advertised by multi-million-pound establishments. Through advertisement, gambling is now seen as acceptable and “cool” and this influence has caused gambling to now become such a prevalent “pastime” in society.
But for an ever increasing many, it is not a pastime. It’s an addiction.
7th May 2019, just over a year ago – Liverpool v Barcelona, 2nd leg of the Champions league semi Final at Anfield. Liverpool were three down from the first leg. They needed to win by four to go through. Highly unlikely against one of the best teams in the world. But very possible.
I’m a Liverpool fan and have been all my life. I wanted Liverpool to win that night, I wanted them to go through and win the final like every other Liverpool fan would have. I also expected Liverpool to win the match because of the extra two men they would put on the pitch through the passion of the Anfield crowd.
So, an hour before the match, I went to the bank and took out my last £200 from a credit card which was now to the max. That was it…. again. I’d once again managed to max out another credit card after running out of all other financial options months before. I’d re-mortgaged several times, had countless loans, umpteen credit cards , lost inheritances , borrowed, and that’s even though I’d been paid through employment every month without fail since I was sixteen years of age. And now once again, it had come to this.
I ran from the bank to one of the many local bookies. I put the £200 on the counter and wrote the betting slip out and passed it to the bookie.
Against everything I thought….
“Barcelona to beat Liverpool – £200”!!
I’d been here before, quite a few times. I wanted to lose so that I would not be able to place another bet. I was so sick of the time and effort I had put into an addiction that had controlled my life for many years and now could realistically threaten to destroy my very existence.
Liverpool won 4-0! I lost the money, but that bet was the best bet in thirty years that I had ever placed…. because it was my last.
The Opposition…and my defence.
On the day the World Health Organisation stated that we had a global pandemic, the Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival could go ahead. Four days of an event which saw 250,000 people come together. It was one of the last mass gatherings in the UK before the “lockdown”. Many have stated that this gathering was insane. Considering the advice, we were being given, it was “insane”. But It was the Bookmakers backed by the government which ensured the event did go ahead. A total disregard for human lives which, as a compulsive gambler, does not surprise me one bit. Indirectly Bookmakers have targeted the lives of gamblers for many years to ensure their gross profits continue. I’m not particularly interested or informed about politics, so I’ll leave that there. But I am informed on the Bookmakers, Casinos and Spread betting firms. It’s all about profit, and at literally ANY cost. And as far as these establishments are concerned, I will not leave that there.
Some may ask, the public would, “how the hell could a serving Police Officer be a compulsive Gambler”? “Simple” is my answer. It was difficult to gamble perhaps fifteen years ago because it wasn’t so accessible then. Years ago, it was frequent visits to the local bookies or the Casino in the cities. Nowadays it’s the opening of an app on the phone, or the press of a button on the laptop, far too easy, and right into the hands of the billionaire bookmakers….
“Denise Coates, the multibillionaire founder and boss of the gambling firm Bet365, paid herself £265m in 2018 in a record-breaking pay deal for the chief executive of a British company. The huge pay package, which equates to nearly £726,000 a day, dwarfs the previous UK record set by Coates when she collected £217m a year earlier.”
In 2019 she was again the highest earning Chief Executive with a 277m wage packet (and is now worth around 6.5 Billion. BILLION!!).
I wonder how much of that absurd wage packet is mine…a drop in the ocean to her. Literally, but “literally” that drop in the ocean is a lifetimes work for the compulsive gambler with absolutely nothing to show for it ……well, that’s not strictly true, a compulsive gambler who has not addressed the addiction will have a lot to show for it, including wasted years, insurmountable debt, relationship problems, divorces, bankruptcy, jobless, homeless, imprisoned, suicidal, suicide. I’ve not personally experienced all of this, but I have experienced each of these descriptions in other people by getting to know a tiny percentage of those thousands of compulsive gamblers out there.
Over the last twelve months I have got to know and respect some inspirational people, all who have a number of things in common.
Firstly, they are all compulsive gamblers.
Secondly, all have an absolute will and desire to beat the addiction to ensure they do not become another statistic in the ever increasing number of gamblers who have given in to it and allowed it to continue to take everything away they once believed was valuable in their lives.
Thirdly, they receive great satisfaction from passing on their advice and experiences to help others.
In case you get a picture here, of “down and outs” and “losers”, like many people do of “addicts” then I can assure you that for those fighting the addiction, this impression could not be further from the truth. Although it really doesn’t matter what a compulsive gamblers employment was or is, or even in fact if they do work, I want to highlight the variety of people whom I have recently met.
From attending voluntary meetings for problem gamblers in central Manchester alone I have met people from all walks of life. Those who are or have been Solicitors, Company Directors, Warehouse Workers, Boxers, Musicians, Shop workers, Team Leaders, Market Traders, Professional Footballers, Jewelers, Window Cleaners, Analysts, Teachers, Taxi drivers , Salesmen, different religions, male or female , young to old, straight or gay…I think you’ll get the point , basically anybody is at risk (although I haven’t met another Police Officer at the meetings, and this is my whole point, and I will come to this).
Those so called “losers” I referred to are out there in their droves. But many of those are the people who perhaps have never received the right help or still don’t want to realise the extent and seriousness of their addiction.
The amount a compulsive gambler loses isn’t comparable to what they earn, it’s relative to what they have at their disposal. They will eventually bet until there is nothing left. And that’s when the real problems start, because, there is always a way to finance a bet…borrowing from friends and relatives, selling personal items, loans, credit cards, remortgages, blowing inheritances. I’ve done all of these and some multiple times. I now know many good people who have done the same, and then those who have advanced to the next level…corruption and criminal offences often leading to new lows… incarceration and suicidal.
Like I said at the start of this, I am NOT unique, I am just an average person who allowed a pastime to get out of control. More and more people get hooked on gambling every single day. Alarmingly, the young are being actively targeted through gaming and social media. It is concerningly common, and will most definitely only get worse. There is literally NEVER a big enough win and there is NEVER a collect button. I think with what I have explained already the similarities to other addictions such as Heroin or Cocaine are obvious.
The main difference being that gambling is legal.
Enough is enough….
Gambling addiction is linked to self-harm, depression and anxiety and causes two suicides a day in the UK alone. More suicides are linked to gambling than with any other addiction.
In May 2019, I decided that my gambling had to stop, for so many years it had been as close to a 24/7 activity as one could get. I eventually had to accept that gambling had me beaten. I’d had enough of the multi-million-pound parasites, providing excessive free bets and incentives and unacceptable ways to ensure that funds could not be withdrawn in order to keep me hooked. I was sick of my own lies and debt, excuses and sleepless nights, hidden stress and anxiety and every other heightened emotion which comes with this addiction. It was relentless. The upset I have caused people I care about, directly or indirectly through gambling is something I deeply regret.
I had wasted such valuable time thinking of the next bet. It’s no exaggeration when I say that at the height of my addiction, I would place well over 100 bets a day. Mainly on sports ranging from the popular ones which I had an idea about to others of which I hadn’t a clue. To physically place this many bet a day would take some time and effort. But the thinking behind it took so much longer. It was about managing to finance and then the placing of the bet, the adrenalin rush when putting it on when there was so much at stake was all part of it….
The chance of losing a month’s wage on the outcome of a Darts match.
The potential of blowing the remnants of an inheritance on the throw of an American Football. Risking the pathetic £70 I’ve just “made” pawning a near thirty-year-old signet ring given to me by my parents for my 18th birthday on a greyhound I’d never heard of.
The chance of losing the loan I’ve just managed to finance in order to pay it back on the red section of a roulette wheel.
Betting my last few pounds time and time again on No 9 on the horse racing just because No 9 was my lucky number (rarely was it lucky!). Clearly, I should have realised so many years ago that I had a problem.
These are just a tiny selection of ways during 30+ years of gambling that I got my adrenalin hit, my buzz, my fix, whatever , to satisfy the addiction. Sounds ridiculous…and now with a clear head, it is, and many will agree, and most will not understand. I’ve told my dad on numerous occasions that I am a Compulsive Gambler and that I attend meetings with other likeminded people. He just looks at me with a confused look and asks why I haven’t grown out of it yet!! I used to end up in a petty argument because he’s tried to give up smoking for the best part of sixty years, and still puffs over 10 a day so I ask why he hasn’t grown out of that! “That’s different” he says. It is yes, but it’s still an addiction. My dad won’t change his opinion. Too set in his ways. But there are others who need to consider their views.
After many halfhearted attempts to quit gambling, I eventually came to a point where I had to stop. I didn’t know where else to turn because I did not want my issue becoming common knowledge. So, my “help” eventually came from GA – Gamblers anonymous (in Manchester). Groups of likeminded people spread across most towns and cities in the world, in the centre of Manchester alone there are five meetings a week , each attended by 10-30 different people , this is just the tip of the iceberg considering these are the people who realize they have a problem and want to stop. There are regulars in amongst the groups, some of which keep attending after many years without a bet and newcomers come and go dependent on how serious they are about getting help and what complexities they have caused in their lives.
I’d tried GA on a few occasions before. The first time was sixteen years ago. I managed to max out over six credit cards and was in serious debt. Upon my attendance as a Police Officer this “help” can be extremely difficult to come to terms with. Sat with some who have committed serious offences and being imprisoned and/or suicidal felt extremely awkward. For obvious reasons I felt like a hypocrite and never felt that acceptance was possible. I thought I was different to those people in so many ways and that this was beneath me. So, I never kept it up. After all, I had spent the majority of my Police career tackling acquisitive crime and helping to put addicts behind bars without much consideration. Until more recently I’ve not really being overly concerned about the reasons behind the individual turning to crime, even though the very people I was dealing with had a similar problem to me, an addiction which was out of control. I know as we all do know that the majority of acquisitive crime is committed due to an addiction of one form or another. Gambling addiction is no exception
Furthermore, there was always the concern that through attending these meetings my addiction would get back to my “employers”, and I knew that this would affect my future within the Police. That was why I attended the meetings 20 miles away in Manchester , because I knew too many people in my hometown where I worked and thought I would be “found out”. These are the excuses I gave myself why for many years I never continued to attend the meetings and to get the advice and help I clearly needed. I did try other ways including the many books out there which are helpful but my abstinence from gambling was only ever a temporary one.
I am convinced that I am not alone in this and that other officers have experienced the same as I and found it a struggle to get the help and advice required due to the restrictions caused by the “job”. Police Officers are so at risk of this addiction. For all sorts of reasons, it can be an extremely stressful employment, but it can also be quite isolated with supervision of whatever rank not actually being aware there is a problem. Or them being aware of the situation but not knowing how to deal, finding it difficult to understand or relate to the issue at hand.
I know plenty of people who like a bet in the Police, some of which clearly have a problem, but I will not preach to anybody as we all have our own lives and choices to make but for those that need it, I offer my help and advice. I have no known barriers anymore as I have revealed the “issue” to the appropriate departments within the Police, so personally I have nothing to lose (albeit that’s another story of the negatives gambling has caused for me, admittedly rightly so, and I will leave that there also).
Resilience of the Gambling Mind…and that of the Police Officer…
I have said that I am resilient (def. “Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult situations or conditions”), I’m not actually sure that this is the correct word. But whilst I hope this article is important for Police Officers, I feel I need to express what I mean as I feel there is very much a parallel between what a compulsive gambler deals with and either recovers from or simply avoids, and that of which a Police officer has to deal with and confront on a daily basis.
As a Police Officer I could provide countless examples of times incidents have been firmly placed to the back of my mind. They occasionally pop up every now and again but generally like most, they get archived in the memory banks.
I have an example to try and draw a parallel and I think it could resonate with officers in many ways. Clearly, I’m trying to associate it with gambling addiction, but that’s me, others may find similar “parallels”.
Briefly, early 2003-2005, I was OIC for a Drug dealing operation which lead to the arrest of two known dealers and a typical “county lines” individual (although county lines was not a known term in those days, but it was exactly the same then as it is now). I’ll name this individual “Jim” for no reason whatsoever! Basically, Jim was the runner used to deal heroin and crack around the area he frequents, whilst the dealers used his home as a base, and as a reward, Jim, would get free heroin. Jim, in his late teens was vulnerable, we didn’t realise it at the time, but he was, he was a heroin addict for starters. Mental issues, chaotic family life and a drug addiction ensured he was a prime target to be used by the dealers.
After a couple of weeks surveillance watching the dealers turn up at the address (“Cuckooing”. another new term for an age-old MO) and then watch JIM deal to local addicts we decided we had enough evidence to charge them all. We conducted a warrant and arrested all three.
We interviewed Jim first who pretty much revealed all about what he and the dealers had been up to. We then spoke with the dealers who typically made “NO COMMENT”. But clearly, they wouldn’t have been overjoyed with the fact their runner, Jim, had “snitched”. Anyway, we remanded them all. We advised the concerns on the remand application of the fact JIM will be vulnerable due to his revelations on interview.
I’m not entirely sure of the exact facts in that if they were all remanded to the same prison, and the time scale. But what I do know is that within weeks of being incarcerated, Jim took his own life.
Now, this was not my fault, but I was a cog in the wheel that led to Jim’s death, and I think if that had been now, things would have been different, and the safeguarding of Jim would have been so much more significant. I guess at first this did have some effect on me, but other than the two officers I worked with, nobody ever really spoke about Jim again. And that was that. Three arrested, two convicted, one deceased, next job, move on. And I could, so I did.
Police Officers are expected to have this mentality on a daily basis, and to a degree, we must, we have no option.
I’m still thinking about this incident from around 15 years ago, so it clearly had some affect, but I put that incident right to the back of my mind. I had to, to move on, otherwise a job in the Police would have been too difficult to handle. Just the way it is!?!
So gambling, people will ask, how the hell could you lose so much money and just carry on. Continually blow money meant for a family future without consideration or remorse. Clearly, that is not the case, but the “resilience” or whatever it should be called to just put it to the back of the mind, deal with the consequences (debt / upset / re- finance) were instilled in me after years of practice.
Sometimes to demote thoughts and feelings to the memory bank can be a good thing as we cannot dwell on matters forever, but sometimes it is not. And that brings me back to GA. Speaking about similar experiences has worked for me.
Just food for thought for those officers and staff out there. There is always somebody to talk to, so do not suffer in silence!
Not sure if that makes sense, but it does to me, and I think it will with any other compulsive gambler!!
Gambling in small doses for those without a problem can be enjoyable …just keep it that way!
I am not a preacher and I am not completely against gambling. Like most things in life,
taken in small doses there is nothing wrong with it. I read a book which highlighted that a compulsive gambler always remembers the good times when gambling and uses that as well as many other “false positive” thoughts to keep an addict coming back for more, irrespective of how much has just been lost, always thinking that the big wins are just around the corner. We recall the good times but what we find when thinking of the good times is that they were always with other people. A day at the races, a night at the casino, the big match at the pub, playing cards with friends, Grand National day, the World Cup and the Euros, Poker nights and arranging betting sweeps are just a few examples for me. I have great memories, but all of these were spent with friends and family and were good times regardless of winning or losing. The difference for the compulsive gambler is that the thoughts never end and when gambling in isolation, the fun quickly does stop irrespective of the win or loss.
Do you have a problem with gambling??
As mentioned, it only took about sixteen – thirty years! but once I realised I had a problem my own help did eventually come from outside the Police Force.
Gamblers Anonymous is a “fellowship” of men and women who joined together to do something about their own gambling problem and to help other compulsive gamblers do the same. It started in 1957 in the USA. It started as a religious group but times have changed. I’m not religious at all so that does not matter, each to their own. Every new member is given a booklet, within the first two pages it asks 20 questions. The booklet says that if you answer YES to at least SEVEN of the questions then the chances are that you have a problem with gambling.
If you do gamble, it’s worth answering the following questions…
1/ Do you lose time from work due to gambling?
2/ Is gambling making your home life unhappy?
3/ Is gambling affecting your reputation?
4/ Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
5/ Do you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts, or to otherwise solve financial difficulties?
6/ Does gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
7/ After losing, do you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
8/ After a win do you have a strong urge to return and win more?
9/ Do you often gamble until your last pound is gone?
10/ Do you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
11/ Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
12/ Are you reluctant to use gambling money for normal expenditures?
13/Does gambling make you careless of the welfare of your family?
14/ Do you gamble longer than you planned?
15/ Do you ever gamble to escape worry or trouble?
16/ Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
17/ Does gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
18/ Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations, create an urge within you to gamble?
19/ Do you have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours gambling
20/ Have you ever considered self-destruction as a result of your gambling
I answered NO to number 3 because firstly, nobody ever knew the extent of my problem in the early days, so my “reputation” was never affected. And once it became a little more evident, it was fashionable anyway, so I wasn’t bothered if people knew that I had an occasional flutter (“occasional” !?). Right now, I don’t care too much about my “reputation” as it pales into insignificance when up against my “recovery” and that of others.
No 16 is debatable. Professionally I have never been corrupting or ever considered being corrupt, EVER. On a personal level, in desperation filling out re-mortgage applications and signing another’s name was often “considered” but never quite followed through.
I also answer NO to No 20. Had I not accepted help and advice I honestly don’t know where I would be right now. Quite possibly as a result of this support I remain a definite NO to this question. However, that doesn’t mean to say that I and other compulsive gamblers haven’t caused major issues for others in our lives. Some of which may have caused them to consider this most horrendous outcome.
I do know many compulsive gamblers who have considered suicide, and let’s be honest, how many suicides have we, working within the Police, attended or heard about where the deceased has decided to take their own life through debt. I’ve been to numerous myself. And many have been caused through the problems associated with gambling, of which there are many.
I answered YES to the rest of the questions or should I say, “used to”.
“Recovery” and my intentions for the future…….
A compulsive gambler, like any addict, is never “cured”, continued recovery is the only option. It’s far too easy to fall back into old ways. My “recovery” doesn’t just include meetings. It’s a whole host of changes from work to my personal life. Too personal to mention here, but it’s working, and this article is clearly part of it.
For the first few weeks of the pandemic I thought this “article” could become irrelevant and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But the reality is that, since this has been the most peculiar and unprecedented of times, it’s quite the opposite. You may have noticed the hundreds of adverts for Bingo or gaming sites that have sprung up recently and you’ll now see the sports betting companies batter the TV and radio in competition for new (and old) punters ready to bet on the sports which are all now becoming available again, unsurprisingly Horse Racing was one of the first sports to start. With people always looking at other ways to keep their minds active, a “pastime” can very quickly become a problem. And for those who already have a problem with gambling, and are not aware, it will only get worse. So this is probably the best time for me to take the plunge and go ahead with a “plan” I have considered for many months and hopefully it will strike a nerve where it’s needed.
From the path I have now taken I am currently all too aware of many people who are struggling mentally and are giving in to addictions. Addiction is thought of as a crutch, something to do or lean onto in times of so-called stress. Stress is all relative and one person’s story is so different to another’s, but we never really know what a person is feeling. Especially if they hide it well. The reality is that It won’t take long before it’s the addiction that will add to the stress and increase the problem. Especially if the addiction is to gambling.
I’ve changed and reduced this “article” so many times. But my intentions have remained the same because there must be a way that a Police Officer who is a compulsive gambler can obtain the help, they need without feeling that the whole world will know or that the help they will get will not be appropriate. My intentions are:
1/ To try and educate and open the mind a little within the Police to a most underrated addiction.
2/ Hit a nerve with officers / staff out there who may be in the early stages of gambling addiction without realising it. Or be aware of somebody (personal or professional) who they are concerned about who may have a problem with gambling and need advice on how to approach the matter.
3/ Provide informed, experienced, confidential, realistic and anonymous help and advice for those that do realise they or another has a problem. I am no professional, but experience in this field counts for so much. Professional help can be obtained and that’s a personal thing. But it is not a necessity and is not an avenue that I personally have travelled.
4/ From an establishment point of view. I know PSD and HR have been involved in numerous cases whereby gambling has been an issue. I can be a contact should it be appropriate for help and advice.
I’m aware of the amount of time staff may be losing whilst gambling on their phones because I’ve lost so much time myself.
I am not anti-gambling. In small doses it can be acceptable and good for morale with team participation in sweeps etc., but to those that have a problem with gambling, the time lost is immeasurable and I’m sure this will be part of the reported issues.
5/ Continue to help myself in my own recovery from this addiction and keep moving forward.
To conclude, and a bit on complacency….
So, having refrained from gambling for the longest time ever, my life has become simpler, without problems, debt free, happy and without worry…has it really?? NO, has it hell, but I am working on it.
Perfection in life is simply unobtainable but with a new perspective and so much more space and time to think without gambling thoughts, it’s at least worth aiming for. But I, like any other “addict” cannot become complacent…and speaking of complacency, there’s an inspirational character I know through the GA meetings who was an amateur boxer and tried hard to further his career. He tells his story that as a young boxer he never fulfilled his potential because he always turned to gambling when he should have been training and thinking of his next fight. When he first thought he’d kicked the habit, he had the date of his last bet tattooed on his leg thinking he was “cured”. He went onto slip up on two more occasions by going back to old ways and never furthered his career. He now has three dates tattooed on his leg, two of which are covered with a tattoo of George and the Dragon. The last date still visible on his leg is his actual last bet date which is now over two years old. He used the same tattooist and laughs when he tells me they thought he was insane having so many dates on his leg. He’s not “insane”, he’s far from it. And he’s now a professional boxer (and typically has allowed me to tell this story in the hope it helps others. That same fella recently ran seven half marathons in seven days to raise money for another GA member. Whose wife had recently passed away, quite inspirational. (PS..I have permission to tell this).
Gambling addiction is a serious mental health problem, which has spiralled out of control and affects millions of men, women and children throughout the world. I am so fortunate to have finally realized my problem before I managed to self-destruct in one way or another. It can be a silent assassin because few people will ever know that a compulsive gambler is a compulsive gambler until the cracks or problems start to appear. Least of all themselves.
No matter what anybody thinks, recovery is not easy. It takes considerable time and effort and can be a very selfish process. I had to eventually stop gambling for me, nobody else. The time and effort into others will follow once “recovery” is in place and the gambling has stopped.
I have said that I do not care about my current reputation, I think I probably do. I don’t want to be thought of as a compulsive gambler who eventually fucked his life up because of it. I’d much prefer to be known as somebody who beat an addiction and lived a life rather than wasted it…and in the process helped many others do the same. That’s the plan anyway.
A Compulsive Gambler.
For those who this may have hit a nerve then please get in touch. I’ve added more which is just a bit (a bit ?) about me and how I got to where I am now, it’s not too personal as I don’t wish to upset anybody and wish to remain anonymous. I think it paints a picture that gambling has been in my life since I was very young. That doesn’t have to be the case though for gambling to be a problem. I have now met many people who started gambling late on in life when they perhaps had a substantial amount of cash and time at their disposal. Many have lost so much but sometimes offer quite overwhelming life stories. Those who have overcome their losses and gone from strength to strength in varying ways are quite inspirational. Other stories of new members are quite inspirational in a different way, these stories really hit home and keep the thoughts of what still could be very real.
My number is 07385 784556. It’s not a work number but one I have sorted personally dedicated for this one reason. Any contact will be totally confidential. I can assure you of that. If you contact this number. I will get back to you if that is what you want. Or if you simply want to provide an opinion on this “article”, please, go ahead, I’m interested to hear any comments, positive or negative…and don’t worry, I will not be offended!
I was going to leave this out, but over thirteen months after my last bet I feel so strong about this and determined enough to commit. After all, long term I believe educating new starters and those retiring from the Police must be my aim. So, anonymity for me is possibly just a temporary thing.
Personal History…but not too personal…with a few book quotes and newspaper articles…!
How did I become a compulsive gambler? I’m not exactly sure…the” nature or nurture” argument I suppose causes me to debate my own reasons….
Age – child to 15… as a young kid I helped my grandad most weeks with his football coupon. Always loved Grand National day where we all chose a horse and my dad would stick that once a year proper bet on for me. Loved the buzz and anticipation of it all, and the exciting potential of winning a couple of quid.
In my early teens I was always competitive, especially with sports, both individual and team but I would often play a game of sport / cards / board game(whatever!), providing there was a wager on it, be it 50p, a wham bar, footie card, anything. Most of my mates from back then were like minded, and still are. I haven’t exactly travelled far, and I still see most of them. Good friends and I am lucky, they have helped me out in times of need as I do them. Most still like a bet though, but not in the same way as I, well, not that I’m aware.
My mum liked a bet, my grandad did. My dad didn’t. My brother also didn’t and still never bets and he was brought up the same as I?
Nature or nurture?? I’ve pondered over this for some time wondering where I can lay the blame, I had a good up – bringing, very little upset or chaos within my early family life, so who caused it? Why? How? Finally, I know exactly who is at fault. Me. Some “experts” say it’s an illness. With their being a mental condition for everything nowadays, it clearly is, and this ones been around a while. Whatever it is, it’s nobody else’s fault. The difficult part is realising it.
Age 15-18. I Left school thinking I was good enough to be a pro footballer. I wasn’t, not quite. I landed a job in an office, where I stayed for ten years, and earned a few quid on the side playing semi-pro footie. I earned £29.50 a week at 16. Most weeks I’d blow at least half of that trying to win a two quid jackpot at a local arcade. Sense! Unfortunately, that was the grounding for the habit of a lifetime. The grounding of an underestimated addiction which is now so much more widespread than most will believe. It now starts even younger. The games our kids play on their phones or Games consoles are helping groom them for the future. I’m not the most outspoken at all but I feel so strongly about this. As young kids nowadays they play on highly addictive games which will have some incentive to get further. “Gambling” just to advance and sometimes having to pay for items in the process to proceed. All the time having adverts for gambling companies running in the background. Numerous on-line gambling companies start up every single day. I wonder why? I am genuinely concerned how naïve we are as parents as to where this can, and often does, lead. I’m not naïve though, but I still can’t stop my kids from being “addicted “to their phones and these games. It’s almost impossible to stop a teen using a phone. But we must give them the information to understand the genuine perils of these highly addictive games. The majority are linked to sites which eventually encourage gambling in one form or another. Sorry, I digress, and sound too opinionated but phones / social media sites are another real issue today whereby mental health problem have rocketed since their progression and they are such a convenient tool for the compulsive gambler.
Age 18-26 – Still worked at the same place. Busy office job surrounded by good people. Majority and particularly the bosses loved sport, loved a beer, loved a bet. My wage started on around 4k per year through to about 18k before I left for the Police in the late 1990s. Whilst working there, a few days a week we’d be in the bookies betting on the horses and the dogs. Loved the world cup and Euros. I’d bring a TV in for the office or book time off to watch it all. It was mainly so that I could get the buzz from betting on every match and following our fantasy teams which again, we’d always have a wager on. At this stage sports betting was nothing major to me and most of it was with mates. My stakes did not lead me to debt, I just never saved! I’d win some, I’d lose most.
Nights out I’d often be the one skint by the end of the night, not just because I’d consumed too much Stella but because I’d be stuck on the “bandit” before last orders and then often have to borrow money for the chippie and a taxi home.
It was when I was 19 or 20 when I first went to the Casino, Stanley Albion Casino in Salford. I travelled with three mates on a Saturday night. We made a night of it, suited up all with about £30 each. A couple of beers followed by about three hours all sat at the Blackjack Table eating free sandwiches. Each of us won between £150 and £300. I won £180. A memorable night. At that age, £180 was a couple of weeks wages. It was a chunk of my holiday paid for with my mates…
…or it should have been. Over the next two weeks I lied to my dad telling him I was using his car to go to my girlfriends or mates or wherever. Instead I made the journey on the M62 to the Stanley Casino. Where I took £50 each time …and lost each time. I continued those lies to my dad and continued going to the casino at least once a week for some time after. Sometimes with my mates. Sometimes on my own. I’m not exactly sure how my dad didn’t notice the mileage…but he didn’t, I wish he had because I’d have taken the blocking to perhaps make me realise at a much earlier age what was going on. Forget the money lost, but the time I wasted for a young lad is time I’ll never get back. I don’t mind so much the times I went with mates as we’d have a laugh. The times on my own are quite sad though. It was clear at this stage that I had a problem. I just didn’t realise.
A compulsive gambler uses stressful times as an excuse to indulge on their addiction. When I was 21 my grandad died, he watched me play football every Saturday until he had a stroke. He died shortly after and the night after his funeral I decided to go to the casino with a couple of mates to “cheer me up”. I took the most I’d ever taken. Holiday savings…£300. I lost it all within an hour. “Cheered up”…not quite.
I can’t ever recall being in serious financial trouble throughout my twenties. I always worked, went out, had holidays. But never saved. Because EVERY spare penny would be spent on gambling. But still, at this stage still no real dramas.
Late 90’s I’d just got married and I joined the Police. My friends and family thought I might regret it because they didn’t think it was for me. That was just the motivation I needed to ensure I’d get through what is always going to be a challenging career. I knew I had the willpower to get me through. In my opinion, being a compulsive gambler has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of willpower. Quite the opposite. Generally, like most of us, I’d say it’s probably an understatement when I state I’ve achieved quite a lot in my life through willpower alone. SO how can I have such a so-called lack of it when it comes to gambling.
It’s because I WANTED to gamble. I never wanted to give it up. I may have at times wanted to give up for my family, but I never wanted to give up for myself. Irrespective of the upset I could cause. It’s so selfish and I realize that now but nobody and no amount of debt and misery was ever going to stop me. It was willpower that was keeping me going. Not a lack of it.
I’ve read a book about gambling (I’ve read a few) called the “Easy way to Stop Gambling”. It’s a good book and tries to teach the reader/gambler to basically re-programme their way of thinking. To remove the desire to gamble and the fears that keep you hooked and to stop that feeling that you are sacrificing something good when trying to stop. To give up gambling without feeling deprived. Part of it encourages the gambler to realize that there is very little good that comes from gambling and it’s those handful of great experiences out of millions where you enjoyed gambling that brainwashes the gambler into thinking they enjoy it. I have had great times at the races with friends, the casinos for a meal, at the pub next to the bookies whilst the football or racing is on. These are just a few which were decent experiences because they were with friends. Why does a gambler often share the fact they’ve won? Because It’s sociable and feels good and they want to convince others as well as themselves that they are a winner. Nobody wants to be a loser. A compulsive gambler may not share their good fortune after a win, because not enough time has passed before they’ve lost it all again, some will, but anybody who knows them will have heard it all before. It’s highly unlikely they’ll share the losses, there will be far too many.
When I first read the book, I stopped gambling for about a month. But a compulsive gambler has a very short memory so the recovery must be constant so you cannot forget. Perhaps reading that book every week could have worked for me and have saved me a few quid in train fares to Manchester. Nowadays though I’m not quite stupid enough to try.
Willpower as a cure? unlikely!
A point on willpower from the book “Easy way to stop gambling” which I find particularly interesting. A gambler is wilful and does not lack Willpower. I feel this is important and needs to be understood. Trying to quit gambling through willpower alone is unlikely to work, to quote the book……. “Probably the most famous and insightful novel on the subject of gambling is The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The Russian wrote from experience, having himself endured the misery of gambling addiction. This was the same man who also wrote the masterpiece Crime and Punishment, a novel of more than 650 pages, and survived four years chained up in a Siberian prison. Weak willed. Hardly.
Ernest Hemingway was another writer with a gambling addiction, and he was renowned for his competitive, strong- and single-minded character. The same is true of anyone who reaches the top of their field in sport, yet many sportsmen and women succumb to the addiction. Basketball star Charles Barclay reckons he gambled away $10 million. Nothing compared to golfer John Daly who puts his gambling losses at $50-$60 million(I’ve read John Daly’s autobiography, not the best, however he has a problem with alcohol, he’s been married four times, has Anger issues yet he states his main problem by far is his gambling problem!). Singer Gladys Knight battled against an addiction to Baccarat that saw her lose $60,000 in one night. Many other stars of stage and screen have suffered from gambling but have yet to admit their addiction due to the stigma.
The common ground between all these people is that they reached a position in their careers that required an extremely strong will. So why would their willpower fail them in this one area.
I’m sure you can also find evidence that you too are strong willed. How do you react when people tell you that you have to change your ways and sort out your gambling problem? Donny you find you’ll do the opposite. Wouldn’t you describe that as wilful.? Do you think of yourself as weak willed in any other areas that are not related to gambling or any other addiction? Ironically , very strong willed people can find it particularly hard to quit using the willpower method, because just like strong willed children who have been deprived of their toys they’ll keep their tantrum going for longer and at a greater intensity, whereas a weaker willed person will get tired of moping sooner”.
Interesting??…I think so.
The book has other topics which are interesting and insightful. If there’s anybody reading now who isn’t comfortable in taking other steps just to address their own or another’s potential problem, then give this book a read. It’s an easy read and It’s worth it (#easywaytostopgambling).
So, the Police, a career that for the outsider or the recruit would be described with words such as excitement, buzz, intrigue, adrenalin, drama, misery, corruption. These are the first words for me which sprung to mind for me back then, based on the media or TV programmes…but all true. I didn’t realise it at the time but, with the words I’ve mentioned, as a compulsive gambler, the pull of a life in the Police service was clearly right up my street.
During the first five years in the Police I can’t recall being in debt. I was a member of numerous telephone bookmakers and a frequent visitor of most of the local bookies (off duty) and still occasionally attended the Manchester Casinos. I was married so the casino trips were not quite as easy to achieve. Clearly, I did have a problem, but It wasn’t one which I realised or spoke about. I was functioning because after 10-15 years of gambling I knew how to hide it. Like most problem gamblers I never talked about the losses, in fact I was also quite sheepish about the big wins. I’m apparently quite “unassuming” so to hide my addiction was simple. The only time I ever recall nearly getting in the shit at work was when on one very rare occasion, whilst working, I walked into a bookies in the town centre where I worked in order to put a bet on for the team I was working with. A few days after I put that bet on, I bumped into my Chief Inspector (now retired) who pulled me up. He told me he was handed a crime report the other day which was left in a local bookmaker. Perhaps a disciplinary offence at the time had he looked into it further. Fortunately, this CI was probably in the bookies more than me!! He told me he had just shredded it and to be more careful, so I was.
In around 2004 I bought a new Nokia mobile which was compatible with a spread betting site. Not many people will be aware of spread betting but in my opinion, it is the crack cocaine in Sports Gambling. Highly addictive and customers will risk vast amounts of money without realising it. From a £1 spread bet, a £500 loss (or win) is quite easily achievable. The volatility of the markets is ridiculous so the highs and lows of this type of betting are extreme. A compulsive gamblers dream…but ultimately, a nightmare. I had plenty of time at work with distant supervision to place a bet. During an operation which included a couple of months surveillance I eventually maxed out six credit cards. Around 30K in total. And literally nobody knew. The stress was immense but I functioned at work without a problem. I functioned at home. I clearly coped because nobody suspected a thing. No doubt I would have been distracted but as a Copper with young kids it’s quite easy to hide the cause for the stress I would have been going through. I remember I never slept but again with young kids I had the readymade excuse for my tiredness. Anyway, after wondering what the hell to do to pull myself out of the debt I considered all sorts of financial resolutions, none of which were realistic. Eventually after some sensitive conversations with my wife I came clean and we put the debt on the mortgage. I also attended a GA meeting. I found one in Manchester. I plucked up the courage to enter the room and sat down with people who I had preconceived opinions of. I’d convinced myself before I went that I wasn’t one of these people. I spoke briefly about my recent problems and losses. I could barely manage to speak as I got upset when the realisation of what I was saying sunk in. It was the first time I’d ever really talked about it or listened to anybody else. But I left that day without getting to know any of those people in that room thinking I was sorting my problem, and that life would get back on track and that I was so different to them. So, meeting attended, debt paid, still employed, still have a roof over my head , back in the steady relationship, still have my kids, and nobody is any the wiser. In no time at all I was gambling again and trying to recover the debt I’d just placed on the mortgage. Like I will have said, a compulsive gambler has a very short memory when he wants one. At this stage I never attended another one of those meetings as I clearly thought I wasn’t one of those people and was in control. How wrong was I!
During the next ten years I became a DC and got promoted. By this stage I could function quite easily with the next bet always on my mind and in continuous debt. I wasn’t too keen on promotion, but I’d re-mortgaged the house a further few times, had numerous loans and still spent pretty much every spare penny I possessed on gambling. So, getting promoted was the least I could do to try and recoup some of that money. All I was doing was making the pot a little bigger so I could gamble more. During those years I’d also attended the GA meetings a further couple of times. Same results as before though, not me, don’t need it, not doing it, don’t fit into this. If I want to, I can sort this myself. “If I want to” is what is important here. If I wanted to stop gambling, I would have tried harder and put things in place which I was being advised to do. After losing every spare penny I’d ever earned , spent a massive amount of time in sad little bookmakers, falling asleep in them once the money ran out, wasted hour after hour on the mobile phone placing bets , unbelievable sleep deprivation watching late night / early morning sport , running miles to achieve the best odds at various local bookmakers, mood swings ,upset close members of my family time and time again , I still didn’t want to stop. That is the addiction at work.
Out of respect for loved ones the last few years I will pretty much keep to myself but for what it’s worth the gambling remained the same. I eventually couldn’t get any more loans due to my credit rating. I cashed in an investment which was an opportunity provided to me by a family member, it became a good investment, and it was the one financial positive I had left to cling onto for a brighter future for my family, my kids in particular. Anyway, I cashed it in, paid off the debt I had again accrued and then gambled on anything and everything and pretty much blew the rest, and in the process, in one way or another, upset everybody I ever cared about.
Some people say that you must experience your ultimate low and hope it doesn’t kill you before you can move on in the right direction and beat an addiction. I disagree. You don’t have to experience an “ultimate” low because sometimes there is simply no way back from that. In my opinion it’s best starting well before it ever gets to that point. The hard part is realising when this is. I accepted advice and help well before I experienced any “ultimate low”, but I know I’m lucky, I could write here of one or two incidents where things could have ended up so different. But I won’t. Not yet anyway.
If anybody is realising, they may have a problem. Then the time is now to stop gambling. No excuses. Forget the debt. Gambling will never pay it off… you can trust me and millions of others on that fact.
Eventually at my tender age of forty something it’s brought me to where I am right now. Gamble free for a year. The longest ever by a mile. I have to be “all in” this time. I’ve made relatively dramatic changes in my personal and professional life and so far, they have helped for sure.
I have a few people to thank, and I do, regularly. But ultimately, it’s down to me.
I’ve asked myself why I didn’t want to stop but I have no answer. The closest answer I can get is what some of the “health professionals” say. It makes sense I suppose, they say it’s a progressive mental illness. A mental illness which can be more destructive than any other addiction. It doesn’t matter how happy or satisfied a person appears or should be professionally or personally, but an addicted gambler will use any excuse to gamble. Each emotion can contribute to a gambler need to bet.
A good day… a reward.
A bad day…you deserve it.
Bored… make it exciting.
Busy… escalate the adrenalin….
A disagreement … let off steam.
Clearly, I could go on, and like I say any emotion, any excuse can be a reason to gamble.
Other addictions can have physical symptoms and are so much harder to hide. So sympathy and help (or the opposite) can be at hand if they want it or not. Most other addictions cannot financially destroy you in a matter of days. I know people who have lost a massive inheritance in a matter of weeks leaving them homeless. Company owners losing everything causing their staff to be unemployed. These are more dramatic examples but I could go on all day with the more common problems such as marriage break ups, child access problems, family feuds which can lead to serious mental and physical issues . I’m not saying that one addiction is worse than the other but what is clear is that gambling addiction is not really thought a problem to those who haven’t experienced it first-hand. And I include many counsellors or therapists who cannot relate to it. I speak from experience, not my own, as I haven’t gone down this route, but from others who have tried and failed. Gambling is now socially acceptable and not a hidden dirty little habit like it used to be. It’s advertised for massive industries by the influential rich and famous all over. It’s making the government and bookmakers billions of pounds. The government needs to make billions as nowadays they need to invest in the NHS to cope with the mental health problems these firms have created.
There are numerous articles being publicised on a daily basis about the dangers of gambling, stories from family members of individuals who are no longer with us, statistics relating to mental health , profits made by the gambling firms or fines they have due to their immoral tactics to cause misery which result in suicide.
Here are just a few which are now a little dated but trust me, when this pandemic is over, a new wave of compulsive gamblers will come to light. I’ll probably meet a few and will do my all to show them that gambling is NEVER the answer.
“The head of mental health care in England has written to the heads of top gambling firms, demanding urgent action to tackle betting-related ill health.
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch has ramped up pressure on companies to take action, following reports that gambling giants continue to nudge losing punters into more betting.
The NHS has recently opened new gambling addiction clinics to stem the tide of betting-related ill health, as part of its Long Term Plan for the health service.
Reports have found that firms are offering hospitality tickets, VIP treatment, and free bets to people who regularly lose large amounts of money.
The major intervention from the NHS follows heavy criticism of gambling firms across the country and in parliament during the scandal of ‘bet to view’ football streaming, which turns fans into punters by having to place a bet in order to watch sports games.
The gambling commission has confirmed plans to crack down later this year on bets placed by credit card while another powerful technique reportedly used involves delaying people from withdrawing their winnings, increasing the possibility of re-betting and potentially losing any gains.
In a letter to industry chiefs today, Claire Murdoch calls on gambling companies to:
- Immediately restrict bets placed by credit cards, before the gambling commission’s restrictions come into force later this year;
- Ban the use of so called ‘VIP experiences’;
- Stop streaming live games, all of which could make a major difference in helping people avoid building up debts and spending money they can’t afford.
Over half of adults in England have gambled during the past year and NHS estimates show around 400,000 people have a serious gambling problem in England.
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “The links between the sporting industry and gambling are deeply disturbing, and the tactics used by some firms are shameful.
“It is high time sporting bodies get back to their roots and start focussing on fans and families enjoying watching their heroes play, rather than allowing firms to hijack sport in pursuit of profit.
“Our NHS Long Term Plan will see 14 gambling clinics there for people across the country as part of our annual £2.3 billion investment boost to mental health services, but the NHS cannot be expected to put out fires caused by other parts of society playing with matches, which is why we need the gambling industry to up its game.”
Specialist services to tackle addiction and the mental ill health that excessive betting can cause are being rolled out across the country as part of a £2.3 billion package of measures in the NHS Long Term Plan.
Last year, the gambling industry in the UK raised £14.5 billion in the UK whilst the Gambling Commission classes more than two million people as ‘at risk’ of addiction.
The gambling industry also spends £1.5 billion on marketing and advertising campaigns, which can make it even more difficult for people to escape gambling addiction.
27 out of 44 top football clubs in England have a gambling company as their shirt sponsor, and this week there has been an outcry following games in the FA Cup third round been streamed by gambling firms using the ‘bet to view’ model.
Despite the backlash, gambling firms are to continue streaming games for future rounds in the FA Cup.
Other sports, such as rugby, have since come under criticism for similar bet to view practices with the gambling industry.
NHS to launch young people’s gambling addiction service
24 June 2019
Children and young people Long Term Plan
The first NHS gambling clinic for children will open this year as part of a new network of services for addicts being rolled out as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
The ground-breaking move comes amid growing concern that the scourge of problem gambling is being fuelled by online gaming sites and targeted adverts; NHS England say.
Hundreds of thousands of people in England have a serious problem with gambling, with an additional two million at risk of developing a disorder.
The number of children classed as having a gambling problem is 55,000, according to the Gambling Commission.
The Commission also found that 450,000 are gambling regularly, more than those who have taken drugs, drunk alcohol or smoked.
Specialist face-to-face NHS treatment for gambling addiction has only been available in London but is being made available across the country as part of the Long-Term Plan.
Up to 14 new NHS clinics are being opened – starting with the NHS Northern Gambling Service in Leeds this summer, followed by Manchester and Sunderland.
The National Problem Gambling Clinic in London will also offer specialist help for children and young people aged 13 to 25 as part of an expansion which will also ramp up treatment for adults.
Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said: “The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lives lost and families destroyed. This action shows just how seriously the NHS takes the threat of gambling addiction, even in young people, but we need to be clear – tackling mental ill health caused by addiction is everyone’s responsibility – especially those firms that directly contribute to the problem. This is an industry that splashes £1.5 billion on marketing and advertising campaigns, much of it now pumped out online and through social media, but it has been spending just a fraction of that helping customers and their families deal with the direct consequences of addiction.
“Problem gamblers at 15 times higher risk of suicide, study finds”
Swedish academics found suicide rate was 19 times higher among men aged 20 to 49. Christopher Thomond/The Guardian
People with a gambling problem are 15 times more likely to take their own life, according to the largest study of its kind, prompting calls for swifter action by the government to tackle betting addiction.
The study found that suicide rates increased 19-fold among men between the ages of 20 and 49 if they had a gambling problem and by 15 times among men and women of all ages.
The authors of the research said that while the causes of suicide were complex and likely to involve more than one factor, their work indicated gambling disorders were associated with far higher than average rates of suicide.
“The lack of recognition of the scale of this problem has been shocking and we call on the government to take immediate action to save lives.”
He said it was hard to isolate the role played by gambling, citing co-morbidity, which refers to the existence of multiple overlapping factors that may be present in subjects who take their own life.
For instance, if a subject was diagnosed with depression as well as a gambling disorder, the likelihood of suicide increased even further but the risk did not appear to rise if substance misuse was added.
He said: “It’s not difficult to argue that gambling contributes very strongly to suicidal thinking, especially when debts are so severe that suicide becomes part of the solution a person thinks about in that kind of crisis, with the feeling of what you have caused to your family members.”
If anybody has read to this point this will have been worth it. I do hope at least one or two of you will get the message and if required txt me on the number already provided – 07385 784556.
I’d like to know if this article has been of any benefit to others (as well as myself) so let me know what you think.