Red or black?
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I spent nearly four years as a croupier and have seen first-hand the damage that gambling can do. The glitz and glamour of the casino portrayed in the James Bond movies is usually a million miles from the reality of the pit floor.
The most mild-mannered of people can turn into venom spouting demons if their numbers don’t come up on the roulette table. As a croupier I was threatened with a machete by an angry Glaswegian and verbally abused by people from all walks of life including middle-aged women, restaurant owners and taxi drivers. In the instant that their chips disappeared down the chute I was no longer a man just doing my job – I was the devil himself, a cheat (the amount of people that think magnets are involved in some way astounds me) and so many other things that could only be repeated in private to broad-minded adults.
Gambling potentially ruins lives – I witnessed the demise of a successful businessman thanks to the roulette table. On his first visit to the casino he had a lucky run and walked away with £5,000 in winnings after only a couple of hours.
Following his win he started visiting the casino every week and before long he was a daily visitor – first through the door and last to leave. Over the following months he became convinced that he had found a winning system and was determined to break the casino. His obsession became so great that he neglected his business and home life.
By the time that he realised that he had a problem and started attending Gamblers Anonymous, he had lost his business, his home and his family. In a relatively short period of time he had become a shell of a man – in debt and living in a small bedsit.
It wasn’t long before he passed away – he died of a heart attack brought on by stress.
Not exactly the kind of thing that you would associate with the glamorous Casino Royale. No tuxedos or dickie bows here – just ripped jeans and a lonely man.
With the increase in ways to gamble, the problems portrayed in the story above are no longer confined to the casino or smoke-filled betting office. Online bingo, scratch cards, countless lottery draws and in-play sports gambling are big business with millions of transactions taking place in the comfort of people’s homes. With no need to leave the house, or even own a computer (thanks to betting apps that you can get on your smart phone) gambling has sneaked, almost stealth-like, into the lives of millions of people up and down the country.
A quick chat in the office highlights that, although most people say they play the lottery, they don’t necessarily see it as gambling. Maybe this is part of the problem – it’s become the norm to ‘take a punt’ in the hope that it will lead to a windfall. Whether it’s because people are desperate for a ‘better’ life or they love the thrill of it all, gambling is definitely a growing business.
But as betting company profits grow, reports from the NHS say that there may be as many as 450,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain – including an increase in the number of women gamblers. The thrill of gambling creates a natural high that can become addictive leading many people into a life of debt if it becomes out of control.
Gambling addiction can lead to financial problems, put a strain on relationships and interfere with work – in some cases those living with this problem may even resort to stealing money to gamble or to pay debts.
Myth or fact?
Do you have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler?
Not necessarily – people with a gambling addiction don’t always gamble every day. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.
If you can afford to gamble is it still a problem?
It’s not all about the money – gambling addiction can lead to relationship breakdowns and social isolation.
Do I have a gambling problem?
Can you walk away once you begin to gamble or do you have to spend every penny in your pocket? Chasing your losses is a sign that you may be having trouble controlling your gambling.
Do you keep your betting habits a secret? Feeling the need to lie or keep secrets about how much you gamble because you think that others might not understand?
Do you have to borrow money to gamble with? One of the biggest signs of an addiction to gambling is if you’re using the bill money or money put aside for your rent or mortgage in an attempt to recoup some of your losses. You may feel that gambling is the only way to get back what you’ve lost but the reality is that this is likely to get you further into trouble.
Are you spending more time on gambling than other areas of your life such as work and relationships? Is gambling making you unhappy?
If you can identify with any of these statements then you may have a problem with gambling.
You can change
Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the ‘hidden illness’ as, unlike alcohol or drug addiction, there are no obvious physical signs but if you feel that you, or someone that you know, has a problem there is help out there.
The first step of any recovery is to admit that you have a problem. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help - talk to someone that you trust. It could be a friend, colleague, GP, support worker or other professional– it’s never too late to make changes to the way that you live your life.