Luke Unger, Deputy Wellbeing Editor
In the UK it is estimated that 350,000 people suffer from gambling addiction, with only 1 per cent ever seeking help. This increase in gambling has been facilitated in large part by the rise in mobile gambling apps and an increase in the amount of money spent on gambling advertisement.
It is perhaps the gambler stereotype – a middle aged man who spends his life at the bookies – that plays a part in preventing people from coming forward to talk about their addiction. However, anyone can be affected, including students. I spoke to one student - who wanted to remain anonymous - about his gambling addiction, his first time opening up about it publicly.
He said it had started off with ‘Match Betting’, a technique in which you use free bets given to you by gambling websites for opening an account to bet both bet on the bookies and against them. This is lauded by many student websites such as Save the Student as a ‘zero risk’ method of making money.
‘In the first few months of doing it I made £500. Most of it was on football and it originally started out with me and my mates.’
‘I’ve always thought of myself as quite a smart guy, always quite calculated and mathematical. I guess I thought I could beat the system.'
‘I did this for quite a while, but it wasn’t really making me money fast enough. Then I watched a YouTube video where this guy was saying that the only way really to make real money was through gambling. It has bigger pay offs over a smaller amount of time. That’s when I began gambling.’
I asked him when he thought it started going downhill?
‘I think Summer is when it all started going downhill. Homelife isn’t great so I was in my room most the time over summer. I started betting on horses. With horses the races can be a minute long, so I guess there’s more of an instantaneous pay off. You don’t have to sweat it out over an 80 minute football game.’
‘I think the turning point was where I bet this Tennis match, Kevin Anderson vs Diego Schwartzman. Basically, to put it bluntly I lost £600 of my own money. I think that was my first big loss. I remember being in my room literally drenched in sweat. My hands were shaking, and I felt so anxious. It was ridiculous. I’ve actually developed stress related eczema.’
‘Before, when I was Match Betting I always kept a log of how much I won and how much I was putting in. When I stated gambling, this stopped. If I’m being honest with you, I have no idea of the net sum of how much I’ve lost.’
‘It really consumed me. I’d wake up and immediately start betting. I remember bringing my seven-year-old sister to buy school shoes in Oxford Street. The whole time I was desperately trying to find a Wi-Fi hotspot to put a bet on some horses. I didn’t tell my sister what I was doing.’
It really consumed me. I'd wake up and immediately start betting.
I asked him when it got worse.
‘I think the worst it got was losing 2 grand over the course of 2 weeks. But again, I don’t have the records, so I can’t be sure that was the worst. I remember coming out of my room in disbelief.’
‘I’m a good liar and I think you definitely get into this habit of lying to cover up your addiction. Whenever someone asked me if I wanted to go out, I’d just say I was saving. Instead all that money was going on gambling. I never told anyone about it until I had a breakdown after I lost that two grand.’
‘I slowly came to the realisation that this just isn’t sustainable. I was living on the poverty line, £10 a week. I had to get two jobs to pay for my rent. My friends have been really good supporting me the whole way through, I can’t thank them enough.’
If you feel your gambling is getting out of control, talk to someone. Gambleaware and Gamcare provide information on where to get help if you feel you may have a gambling problem. Read more of our 'top tips' for safer gambling here: https://t.co/KJtNltEd15 @nusuk #freshers2018 pic.twitter.com/CdEJfYr3CW— Gambling Commission (@GamRegGB) September 26, 2018
I asked him what advice he’d give to anyone suffering from a gambling addiction.
‘Even if you’re match betting, it’s not worth it. If you need money get a job. It’s literally not worth it. Also, make sure you’ve got friends out there who are going to support you when things get bad.’
With gambling seemingly able to permeate every nook and cranny of our life through our mobiles, laptops and TVs the need to break this stereotype has never been greater. This is specially as multiple student websites now are lauding match betting as an easy way to make money, despite it’s inherent dangers. You can get help, do not suffer in silence.
*Featured Image: Unsplash / Benoit Dare *
Have you been affected by a gambling addiction? Comment below or get in touch.