From an early age, everything felt like a gamble, from getting away with staying out an extra hour with a friend on our bikes or to wanting to stay at a mate's house but worrying about my mum at home.
From the age of 8 or 9 my dad, would sit us in the corner of a smoked covered bookies. The lady or gentlemen behind the counter would often say “Oi, Tony they can’t come in today, it’s too busy”.
It started with our dad, putting a list in front of my younger brother and I, asking us to pick out a dog name or trap number. We were only 4 or 5 years old at the time.
I still to this day, remember that first feeling of seeing my/our dog out in front, coming around the last bend and thinking, ‘He’s won!’ I’ve turned 50p into £2 just like that!! That was easy!’
I look back now and think, if only my first few dogs didn’t cross the finish line first, everything could have been a whole lot different. But, I’m also a quiet believer that things happen for a reason. And it was all really for me to find the person I really am inside. I look back now and realise, gambling was pot luck, I was picking that dog for either its name or what the dog looked like in the parade area.
From around the age of 12, I got a job on a market stall with an uncle of mine. He paid me £15 for half a day on a Saturday. Which was amazing at such a young age. Having money was then the norm to me. I could treat my little brother if I wanted to or grab a bag of chips on the way home from school.
But unfortunately, the gambling had well and truly taking a part of my mind. A friend and I would jump on a train, if we had money and go down to the arcades. Generally, our parents had no clue about it. Some days we’d come out up. Other days we’d lose everything and have to jump the train home.
The Saturday and Sunday mornings in the bookies continued. I’m not saying my old man was to blame for what I would do in the future. Maybe that first dog crossing the finishing line first did. It gave me a feeling I hadn’t had before. ‘Corrrr that was easy.’
This pattern did continue for a long time. At the age of 15 I was offered a full time job at a large company. I did 2 weeks work experience there and shortly after that, they called and asked if I would join their warehouse staff. I wanted to do it, but I knew I had to ask my mum. It did feel like a gamble, leaving school prior to any GCSE’s, but I’d be the first one of my friends with a job and looked forward to earning good money.
On I went in my new adventure, after working my way up from warehouse to Purchasing in the first 6 months. I was no longer doing manual labour, but eventually I would realise how bad that would become! I was all of 16 years old when I signed up to my first website. All I had to do was make myself two years older on the sign up form and two minutes later I was away.
Years would go on. I didn’t have my own home or children at the time, but after moving into sales when I was 19 or 20, more and more money become available via either sales or outside investment people who were hearing of my success in my job.
I decided to open a company in my own name and left a large corporate company who turned over around $30 million. This turned out to be the worst decision I could have ever made as an already addicted gambler.
Yes, I still earned between $5-10k per month, but it was my own company and outside investors included family and friends. Gambling had well and truly taken over. It was the main focus of my day. Betting on anything I could to try and claw back the debt. In my mind I always thought, I can pay that back, even if I lose.
The other thing that didn’t help was the gambling sites contacting you if you hadn’t bet for a few days, offering cash back or bonus bets. Getting a win every now and then, kept you thinking, ‘I can get back out on top!’ How could I have been so stupid?
My life really did get out of control, I considered suicide at least three times per day for at least two years, looking up the best ways to do it. Not only was it the thought of what I had done with not just my money, but my sister’s, mother’s, cousin’s, and many, many friends.
It was also how tiring gambling was. I didn’t sleep for days on end.
I was so wrong, and when things got so bad, I attempted to take an overdose. Shortly after taking the tablets I made myself sick. The next day I decided I would either kill myself or hand myself in to the police. I opted for the latter for the sake of my family.
I was released under investigation, which a year on is still being looked into, and no doubt I will end up with a prison sentence.
Every day I still think of all the lives I have ruined and people’s hard earned money I’ve wasted. Every day it makes me feel sick.
One thing I would say is the people closest to you, will find it hard to understand and I still have people who do not talk to me. Luckily, my blood relations have stuck by me.
I hope this story helps people realise that gambling only gets worse. Get help now and do not delay.