My gambling story is a long and complicated one which includes two phases I went through.
It started on the night of my 18th birthday. I was the youngest of my group so I had only ever heard of stories from my friends talking about the casino. The people. The entertainment. Music. Girls. Alcohol. And most importantly the opportunity to go out and actually come back home with more money than you had left with.
My best friend had organised a night out to celebrate at the casino and I was given a $100 chip to try my luck. Little did I know that this chip would be the start of one of the worst stories relating to gambling anyone would have heard. From that night on, we would organise to go to the casino every chance we got. Weekdays. Weekend and eventually during uni breaks. I stopped relying on luck and studied blackjack more than my exams. I wanted to be a professional. I wanted to have an edge. I would earn around $300-500 a week and I spent it all on gambling. My mum knew something wasn't right because she had experienced it on a massive scale with my dad. Unfortunately this was also the time my mum was diagnosed with cancer and made me swear I would not gamble anymore. I agreed and even gave up uni to work full-time to support our family while my mother focused on beating cancer. My mum would vent to me about the problems my father's gambling has caused us. I had no idea. I started feeling angry towards my dad. I hated gambling. I stopped and didn't feel the urge to go back. Phase 1 complete.
I committed my time and effort into making money. Saving it to help my mum. Making sure the mortgage got paid. Food on the table and bills. We were a family of 6 and I was number 3 of 4. My older brother worked. My dad had businesses. My older sister committed all her time to helping my mother. My younger sister was in high school. After two years of hard work and helping my mother with everything I had shown a level of responsibility and maturity that led her to make me the executor of her estate, knowing that I was committed to keeping the family together and learning the value of a dollar. My mother passed away just before my 22nd birthday. I inherited everything. I avoided grieving. I had a job to do. I was committed to the job I was left. Keeping a roof over our heads. For six years I had worked hard because I did not want to fail.
Little did I expect at the age of 27 I would be going for dinner at the casino only to have it trigger memories of my mum. Instead of walking away, I entered the casino and from that day, I started the biggest financial slaughter to myself. I stopped working and started to gamble every day. The first day I walked in with $1000 and lost. I came back 24 hours later with $6000 and lost. I wanted to keep going. I wiped out $30,000 in savings in the first month.
Then I turned to my family who had no idea I was gambling and trusted me with all financial aspects and my investment choices. $100,000 in family loans, gone within 6 months. I turned to my friends who lent me a further $50,000 to support my business as far as they knew. My only focus was to gamble. By the end of that year the $50,000 was also gone. I was $200,000 in the hole and hadn't even scrapped the surface. My next lot of funding came from three personal loans totalling $80,000 and two credit cards with a total of $25,000 limits. 12 months later despite winning $80,000 one night. $30,000 another night. $70,000 from online pokies. I was down to nothing again.
I sold $50,000 in shares despite taking a $6000 loss. After paying back some debts, I took the remaining $30,000 to the casino and lost it in the same night. I was crushed until I was introduced to a loan shark who offered me $20,000 loan against my $65,000 car with $2000 weekly interest. Payable within a month. The $20,000 was gone in two bets chasing my losses aggressively. Three weeks out I had to tell my best friend that my car was held security for a loan but left out the gambling part. He gave me $26,000 to get my car back. I was convinced I would not do that again. Exactly four weeks later another loan shark who had heard about my previous experience offered me $30,000 loan with $2,000 interest. I ignored my partner's plea to walk away. That lasted three days and was the end of my car.
At this stage I had lost a fair bit, accumulated a large debt and my urges were getting stronger than ever. I couldn't stop. At this stage the only way I would be able to pay back my debts and still have a large sum to play with was sell my first investment property. It was a six month wait only to be told by the bank that they would be using excess funds to reduce other loan balances. This was terrible news. I had managed to convince my sister to apply for a $40,000 personal loan to satisfy my urge to gamble while I prepared to sell my second investment property. The new loan went as quick as the rest. Around one year later, the second property settled. I paid all of my loans from family and friends with a remaining $160,000. I wanted to use this responsibly. I wasn't about to lose $160,000 overnight. I committed to limiting access to $10,000 a month. 16 months later, zero. I had lost all investments I made. Most of my inheritance. My relationship was silent. My friendships were distant and my family still had little to no idea I was facing what I call financial suicide. As far as they were concerned the investments were a success seeing as all debts were wiped.
By the age of 31 I had lost two properties. A car. Still in debt to the banks and still had this thumbing urge to keep going. I was forced into seeing financial councillors because of debt collectors. All utility bills were cut off. Council rates overdue and the pressure of everything became too much to handle. I could not satisfy my gambling needs with $500 a week so I did the unimaginable. I put up the family home we lived in on the market. It took almost a year to sell, choosing to sell while Melbourne’s property prices had taken its biggest dive. Just before my 32nd birthday we settled. I gave my father and sister money they considered as large sums, but it was nothing compared to what I had gambled. I think I did it because of the guilt - it was my way of feeling better about my actions. My family moved to rental apartments. I moved in with my partner, and much to my disappointment the obvious happened.
I had completely lost every single dollar before I turned 33. Within one year. $500,000 in cash from the sales proceeds of our home gone. I turn 33 in in November. My relationship has fallen apart. I had to move out and had nowhere to go or anyone to turn to. I felt too ashamed to face my family and ask for help after I'm the reason they renting an apartment. I have stopped associating with my friends and every day I wake up feeling a little more depressed with no idea what tomorrow will bring. I feel I failed my mum. I have lost the entire family fortune in excess of $1.5 million within five years.
The guilt I live with every day now is not having the courage to stop and to get help. I’ve never spoken about it. Never thought about it or got the help I should have. Although the purpose of these stories are of recovered gamblers speaking of their past and their willpower to make live a better quality of life for themselves, my story unfortunately is not about the past nor does it has a successful or inspirational ending. My story is about the present life I am living. I believe submitting my story has given me the opportunity to acknowledge and accept my wrongdoing. I think this story is the end of that chapter and the start of getting the help I need and finally making the changes I need to make in my life.