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Terry's story

Waking up to reality

Read this story in Traditional Chinese: Terry 的故事

Read this story in Simplified Chinese: Terry的故事

Like most Chinese people, I learned about gambling when I was a child. It was fun.

As an adult, I was self-disciplined and always planned for my future. In 1991, I became a permanent resident, and then a citizen, of Australia. As a Chinese teacher in Australia, it was really difficult to earn a good living. I decided to return to Hong Kong, where I'd be able to make enough to later spend my retirement days Down Under.

I started gambling in Hong Kong as a way to relieve the pressure of work. I enjoyed betting on horse races via the telephone betting system which was very easy to use and could win you a lot of money. At this stage I usually bet small sums of money with my friends.

I clearly remember the day my gambling became an addiction. It was on 15 June 1997, the day of the triple trio jackpot at Hong Kong’s Happy Valley Racecourse. The race was worth US$25.9 million and my friends and I had pooled our money on a bet. That day we got very close to winning fourth prize, a result which would have won each of us millions of dollars.

From that day I became convinced that betting on horse races was an easy way of making money – much easier than working hard in my job. I believed that if I’d just had a bit more luck on 15 June, I would have achieved my retirement goal.

As I became addicted to horse race betting, my lifestyle started to change. Every weekend, instead of enjoying time with my wife and children, I stayed home to watch races and place bets. Occasionally my wife complained but I felt she did not understand that I was trying my best to prepare us for our return to Australia.

I noticed my kids were not talking to me anymore. In reality, it was I who had little time to talk to them.

In the beginning, I spent HK$100 or HK$200 a week, but soon it increased to HK$5000 to HK$6000. I made sure I never spent more than I could afford on betting and the money I lost wasn’t noticeably affecting my family’s lifestyle.

The anticipation of winning a lot of money to retire made me feel excited and allowed me to temporarily forget life’s struggles. Occasionally I would nearly win a large sum and feel relieved by the idea that I was getting closer to my retirement dreams. I believed I only needed a little bit of luck to win enough for the retirement I was longing for.

The most disappointing thing was, I never won much on horse racing.

Ten years went by and one day in 2007, I decided to sit down and audit my betting results. I found that I had lost about HK$500,000 altogether. I had not only moved further away from my retirement goal but I would need to stay and work in Hong Kong for even longer to reach it.

This realisation made me decide to give up gambling.

I was like a man who had just woken up from a dream and I suddenly knew that gambling would not help me fulfil my retirement dreams.

In the end, nobody forced me to give up horse race betting. In fact, I didn’t even tell my wife about my decision. I simply changed my lifestyle by choosing to fill my weekends with activities I enjoyed such as basketball, chess and spending time with my family. Focusing on these fun, non-gambling activities helped me to not think about betting.

I never went back to horse race betting once I was convinced that it did not work for me. By constantly reminding myself of this fact each day, I give myself the strength to stay away from it.