Former gambling addict sets up group to help Huntingdonshire residents kick the habit
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Carrying a mobile phone is like having a casino in your pocket – so says the founder of a new Gamblers Anonymous (GA) group in Huntingdonshire.
The increasing ease with which punters can have a bet, and the age they start, has prompted the former compulsive gambler to set up the self-help meetings.
“If you have a problem with gambling and you’ve got a phone, you can put as much as you want on while walking up the street,” he warned. “Play on the go – it’s targeting the younger generation.
“And the machines in bookies, they’re the crack cocaine of gambling. You can spend £100 in 20 seconds. Within a minute you could do £300.
“Before you know it, you could have done your whole life’s savings.”
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A family man, he has asked The Hunts Post not to name him. In the 60s, as a child, he preferred to play in arcades rather than on the beach and as a teenager, he became hooked on horse racing.
“I would be going gambling when others wouldn’t,” he admitted. “It was to get that adrenaline going, that buzz. You are wagering something on an uncertain outcome. It’s the thrill of the uncertainty. Are you going to win or not?
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“You have a dream world, consisting of huge houses, mega holidays, big social events.
“What really happens, if you have a big win, you don’t see it as money, you see it as digits. It’s like sticking three bottles of vodka in front of an alcoholic – it’s a bottomless pit.”
His concern now, he said, was that there was nowhere for people in Huntingdonshire to seek help, as he had in the 1980s, even though it had never been easier to have a flutter.
“Mobile phones are fantastic but it’s a killer if you’ve got a gambling problem,” he continued.
“In the old days, you had a bookmaker and it was seen as a seedy thing to do. Now it’s seen as trendy. If you want an exciting night in, then gamble.
“All you have to do is be 18 and have a phone – but it’s very dangerous.”
While much has changed, the destructive impact of gambling has not.
“The obvious thing is the finances, but money comes and goes,” he said. “Emotionally, it destroys people. You tend to put gambling first, before anything else, including yourself.
“The children, the wife, the house, all goes to one side. The more you owe, the more you have to win.
“You live off the action and you have to keep going. The stopping point comes when you hit rock bottom – all of us have a different rock bottom.
“People have ended up in prison, homeless, their marriage breaks up, in mortgage arrears. It’s always hidden and when it comes out, it’s always too late.”
GA represents an opportunity to talk through issues affecting compulsive gamblers.
“It’s a self-help group for people with a problem or who feel they might have a problem. It’s for like-minded people, so they know there’s help, if they want it.
“You get people from all walks of life, business people, judges – you would be surprised who turns up in a GA room.”
Help comes in many forms, from simply listening and talking to others, to the GA 12-point programme.
“Without GA, I would not have stopped,” he added. “You cannot do it on your own.
“You have to change. That person who went gambling, if he stays that person he will go back to gambling – you have to change your attitude, your personality and see things differently.”
INFORMATION: The group meets at Brampton Memorial Hall, Thrapston Road, Brampton, from 7.30-9pm on Fridays. For more, visit www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk.