The following article has been submitted by a Lincoln City supporter who has requested they remain anonymous. Usually, I publish an author’s name, but once you’ve read this, you might understand why that isn’t the case. A huge thank you to the individual concerned for their emotive and honest piece.
I’m just a normal lad, with a normal job, with a normal family and a very abundant problem……. I’m an addict…. I’m a gambling addict.
At the age of 18, I was introduced to gambling by a relative. Someone who liked little bets, on a Saturday on a few horses. Quite normal I hear you say. It started off with a £3 treble on 3 football teams on a Saturday afternoon. At the time that’s all I could afford. Winning £20/£30 on a £3 treble a couple of times a month, was enough to start the kindling which now has erupted into an enormous inferno.
From only being able to afford £3 a week on a ‘sporting bet’ to gambling £300/£400 a day on nothing more than speculative betting on anything from Eastern European under 18s Football to Asian Basket Ball.
From going into a bookmakers at 18, to more recently opening various online betting accounts things went from bad to worse. Gambling on a regular basis, money which I couldn’t afford, to opening credit card accounts and spending thousands of pounds per month on online betting accounts. Starting off with William Hill, then Corals, then Victor Chandler, then Bet365, then Skybet, then Bet Fred, then Ladbrokes, then 888Sport and finally Paddy Power. Each one easy to open and easy to place bets. Each with their own way of trapping the disconcerting vulnerable gambler. Each with its own way with lights and sounds to catch the eye and incentives from free bets to money back credit, to free spins on fruit machines to boosted odds. All tricks the modern companies use to draw in custom.
I can hear you all shouting, How could you? Why couldn’t you stop? For a person with an addictive personality, gambling can be seen as a mental illness. It’s not obvious for anyone else to see. At least with alcoholism or drug addiction there can be tell-tale signs. With gambling, the addiction can be hidden to an extent. The impulsive gambler can be deceptive, lying about their finances to loved ones and friends/family.
Recently I have closed my accounts, enrolled into a program to combat my addition and I’ve been enlisted on to a government site to stop any gambling companies from taking another penny of my hard earned money. I have had the pleasure of reading a book by Paul Merson entitled ‘Hooked’, which goes through the trials and tribulations of the pundit and ex arsenal Tuesday night drinking club member. It stuck a chord and has changed my life for the better.
Having read articles online recently, I now see the importance of trying to remove betting companies from our sport. I understand the revenue it brings to our sport and to many others, but with it being rammed down our necks before matches and during matches by celebrities, on both television and radio it’s difficult to get away from. From bet in play to cards/goals/corners. Something needs to be done …. But has it gone too far to remove completely from our beloved sport? If sports can do without tobacco advertising surely it’s time to cut back on the betting companies.
Many of you will read this article and see similarities with your own lives. Some of you may deny it and continue controlled with your’ couple of quid accumulator’ on a match day. Many of you will say ‘I’m not like that, I can control my betting.’ Telling friends of when your bets come up and not telling them of hundreds or thousands spent to get that winning bet feeling. When betting controls your life, that every hour of your waking day you need to be on your betting app or website checking out the odds on the Asian basketball market or the Bulgarian Women’s Badminton scores. This obsession eventually affects the quality of work you can produce, with every vital free minute placing that betting, trying to claw back the previous loss’s. Surely it’s time for something to be done. Not just for us as individual’s, but as a society as a whole.
I’m just a normal lad, with a normal family and a disease which I’m getting on top of.
Thankfully our club have distanced themselves from betting companies, apart from the uncontrollable League sponsorship. But more needs to be done at governmental/political level to stop the problem from escalating amongst the most vulnerable of our society. I’m not anti-gambling but more against the processes or marketing practices the gambling companies use to promote themselves and encourage vulnerable compulsive people to gamble. In recent times and more so over the past year and half during the pandemic, we have been gambling from home on our laptops and phones. Problem gambling/gambling for people who cannot control or afford it, has increased and with it situations such as debt, domestic violence, depression and suicide. Luckily for me, my gambling addiction hasn’t reached to these depths but some not so lucky, who have not reached out for help have or had the confidence to face their addiction, have suffered in silence. Something needs to be done.
Banning front of shirt sponsorship and not allowing bookmakers to stand in the concourses of stadia is just the top of the iceberg. Trying to restrict under age betting which exists, this includes the 11-18 age range which gambling is a problem and also reducing or limiting monthly betting for under 25s. With it being so easy to open multiple betting company accounts, limitations must surely start need to be in place to stop individual’s debits increasing. Removing betting triggers at matches, on the television or radio needs to be addressed, do we really need to be pressured to ‘bet in play’ by Ray at half time, pressurising us to impulsively bet?
At one any one time I’ve held 10 open betting accounts, each with their own ways of luring you in to place that bet with their own incentives of free bets.
You just maybe a normal person like me, with a normal family like me, with a normal job like me and a disease which you would like to get on top of.
Life for me is better without betting, and no matter what your situation is, there’s always someone to talk to and there’s always a way out of compulsive gambling by withdrawal from their services through GAMSTOP or GAMCARE.
If you have the inclination or want to have a read or listen to Paul Merson’s latest book ‘Hooked’, it can be highly recommended to broaden your understanding of a person with addiction issues.