In part three of our investigation into gambling, Sarah Carter meets two addicts working to turn their lives around.
“I think about gambling every minute of every day.”
These are the words of compulsive gambler Chris, who began betting as a child.
But school card games soon escalated, with the now 40-year-old blowing thousands trying to chase a win.
Chris, not his real name, has taken money from his partner’s bank account, and even gambled his inheritance following the death of his mother.
“I will literally gamble on anything”, he admits.
“I would throw 50p against a wall to see who gets it nearer.
“I’ve had gambling binges where I’ve been in the bookies from 9am to 5pm, then got home and sat on my laptop from 5pm to 3am or 4am gambling on horses, dogs, tennis, cricket, football, then later in the night you get Aussie Rules football, women’s volleyball, just for the sake of it.”
Unlike many compulsive gamblers, Chris can’t remember his first bet.
But he thinks it was at the age of about 11 or 12, when he would play cards for money while a pupil at Kirkham Grammar School.
He says he had a friend who was able to cheat for him, and he would win about £10 or £15 a day.
Chris, who was born in Fulwood, admits he “completely messed up” his A-levels, after spending his free time in pubs, under age, playing pool for money and playing on fruit machines.
He also turned down university offers, and ended up working for a book suppliers in Preston.
He remembers: “I would get paid at 12 on Friday and finish work, and the money would be gone by Saturday morning, if I was lucky.
“But, at the time, I was living at home and it wasn’t a major issue because my parents bailed me out.
“I’m sure I took home about £120 a week and that all went in the fruit machine.”
Chris, who is now 40 and has a son and step-daughter, was “dragged” to Gamblers Anonymous (GA) in Preston at the age of 18, but admits he wasn’t interested at the time.
He recalls a string of jobs, with periods of being gambling-free, while at other times blowing all his wages at once.
He remembers one particular part-time job, working in a shop in Fulwood.
He says: “I went back to the Preston meetings, but I was paying lip service because I had been on a six-month binge.
“I ended up getting arrested at the shop, because I had stolen £2,500 of scratch cards over a period of three to four months.
“They gave me the job on the lottery counter and I didn’t tell them (about the gambling).
“It went to court, and I ended up on probation for two years and had
to repay all the money, and got sacked.” Chris found a job working for a bathroom furniture manufacturer, who let him go to probation and he managed to stop gambling for two or three years, before becoming an accountant for a multinational company.
At that point, Chris had met his now wife, and says: “We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride for the last 12 years.”
He admits he wasn’t attending GA meetings for the first few years of their relationship, but says the addiction then “took over again” and he went on a “mad binge”.
He remembers: “I was getting paid monthly, and one month I blew literally all my wages, all my savings, emptied her bank and took £3,000 off her credit card.
“My debts in total over the years, with loans and credit cards, have amounted to probably £250,000 to £300,000 in 10 years.
“I could have a nice house and nice car.”
Chris and his partner have split up and got back together again over the addiction, with Chris managing to control it for certain periods of time.
But, four years ago, he says “everything just went to pot” after the death of his mother.
He remembers: “My head just went to mush and I was back at it.
“Everything was going through probate, my mum’s estate, and as an only child I was getting everything anyway.
“I ended up ringing the solicitor and asking for £1,000, and it went within hours on a combination of roulette machines and horses.”
He says his periods of major gambling binges went on for several years after his mum died, and then says: “That’s when I really went back to GA.” He has been attending meetings ever since, and no longer controls his own money, with his wife taking care of it instead.
Chris now has a full-time job and lives in Walton-le-Dale.
He describes the addiction currently as “stable”, because his wife controls his finances, and because he is “three steps past my last chance”.
He says: “We’ve had 12 months of marriage, and I’ve nearly been kicked out three times. I’m not proud of anything I’ve done.
“I’m not proud of putting my wife through everything I’ve put her through, but I’m at a stage in my life where it’s in my past.”
He admits that when he gambles, he gambles “out of control” and describes it as a “vicious circle” of trying to chase a win.
He says: “The size of the bet grows and the desperation grows, and it only gets worse.”
He adds: “I can’t tell you I’m never going to have a bet again.
“What I can say is, at the moment, I’m in a stable position, I feel confident, I’m looking forward to having the next 40 years of my life with my wife.”
Click here to read how compulsive gambler Mike has managed to go for three years without a bet.