The untold stories of young people and gambling addiction. Enough is enough!

We need to take this more seriously, gambling addiction is massive. I've been saying it for years.
Still easily brushed under the carpet, and hidden in plain sight.
It's one of those things that gambling addiction campaigners have been screaming out for years to understand.

Often looked upon as a fool, some misunderstand that those that have found themselves addicted to gambling still have pride. Which is why it is to often easily hidden.
My journey through gambling addiction led me to spend quite a fair bit of time in different betting shops across the UK, and I've seen many different stories.
What hit me most hard was the amount of young people this is happening to. Often people you'd never guess where in so much financial hardship upon first glance when walking past them in thye street.

For those that know me from my new book Poems From a Runaway , you might not know that a few years back I started a campaign to raise awareness of how gambling addiction was getting more widespread in our communities.

I personally had never been into betting shop until 2009 at the age of 24, when I'd walked in with a friend and had never seen the roulette machines before. A week or two after I'd been happening to walk past and had decided to go in simply to walk out of the hard rain for a few minutes.
After looking at the machine I decided to put a couple of pound in simply to entertain myself for a moment.

I didn't even know how to play roulette, and I was making bets with the odds highly against me, but i'd kept winning and winning, and after around an hour or so on the machine I'd won a total of £500.
"You'll be in here tomorrow" the cashier said,. "no I won't I ain't no mug" I replied.
"That's what they all say" he answered back, "you will."

The last time I was in a bookies a young lad that appeared to be no older than twenty-one was explaining to the others in the William Hill shop, how he'd just lost all his money on the roulette in the nearby Paddy Power.
He sat looking lost and hurt in the bookies, head in his hands.

Despite that he still managed to lose the last £60 he had on him, whilst through it I and one other had kept suggesting he go home.
Another two men who were in there stood trying to convince him that they knew what numbers were coming in on the roulette.

I'll re-upload a link to the full documentary soon, which explains not only how the gambling industry and the way it promotes has changed over the last few years, but also it's deeper cognitive impacts on the brain and how it is all affecting our communities in the bigger picture.

What I'm concerned about most that I think we could, and should easily change, are the following two things.

1. Duty of care in betting shops.

I've been in plenty of betting shops. And gambling addiction gets so deeply ingrained that even since taking a break from the campaign I've been in a betting shop a few times putting the odd £2 or £3 on stuff. I know, i know, I should know better right?

But yeah, so many times over the last eight years I've been in a bookies. From both experience and research it seems there is a big division of opinion in how gambling addicts in betting shops should be treated.

I myself have seen too many people being allowed to continue gambling despite showing obvious signs of distress. The young lad I just told you about, why was he still allowed to gambling. That story is certainly not isolated, and it's happened in many many betting shops I've been in.
There has only ever been one that seemed to show care for customers, so thank you Mary if you ever read this!

But this needs to change. Six or seven years ago I was shouting out on the internet "Woah, look whats happening, sometimes soon someone's gonna get hurt when someone comes out of the bookies feeling so psychotic after losing all their money!"

Then what happened? Two OAP's were murdered when a gambling  came out of a betting shop and I think he was trying to rob them.
I've been trying to find the link for it, it's taking a while. But even a quick google search on 'OAP's klled outsde betting shop' reveals a whole list of shocking articles including OAP's going mental at betting shop staff with planks of wood and people being stabbed to death,

Things need to change, and for too many years now politicians have been fooling the public into thinking they are making change by reducing the stakes of the roulette machines. They've been saying the same thing for the last six or seven years and not a single thing has been done about it.
That will be because many of them as explained in my video, have interests in the gambling industry. It's all a bit dodgy.

But yeah, it should be mandatory for betting shops to be fined if they continue to allow a person to gamble after showing obvious signs of distress.
As they are not casino's, there should be limits on how much people can spend in a betting shop per day.

I truly believe that a total daily cap of £100 on gaming machines (Fixed odds betting terminals) and £100 cap on sports betting per day in each betting shop would certainly help eradicate at the very least, some of the most severe gambling addictions that people experience in betting shops.

Not an unrealistic proposal, and it won't eradicate every gambling problem (i'm trying to be progressive here) but it will at least allow those that find themselves wrapped up in the hypnotic state of gambling to be forced to take a much needed break when they hit their limits.
It's not only the money people can lose, but how people find themselves addicted to the simple act of gambling.
And remember it's not just the weak-minded. I'd like to think that living on the streets at least half of my adolescence and not getting a crack or heroin addiction counts for something.

This is the very least, in my opinion, that the gambling industry can do to show a duty of care to our communities. Betting shop staff in whole, are not trained to intervene. This really needs a shake up!

2. Make the self-exclusion policy a realistic policy by ensuring every betting shop has a photo camera.

I and many other people that have experienced gambling problems whilst being in betting shops can tell you, that the self-exclusion policy doesn't currently really work very well at the moment.
Let me just give you a rough breakdown of how it goes.
Let me put you in the shoes of someone in this position.

Your in the bookies, you're hearts racing and you can't believe that yet again that you've lost control and lost almost all of your money again. "I need help" you mutter to yourself before walking up to the desk, still feeling that whoozy feeling you get when you know that you've really messed up.

"I'd like to self-exclude please" you say to the betting shop cashier. In nearly all cases this is the reply that you will get.

"OK what you will need is two copies of a passport sized photo, and then you have to come back and fill out this form". Just take one moment to think about that.

If it hasn't come to mind already, then let me just breakdown how much of a useless self-exclusion policy this really is.
For a start, you've got no money left. Unless you've happened to walk into the betting shop with two spare passport photos or managed to have some lying around in an old suitcase or something, then you're pretty much doomed.

It essentially leaves people enough time to change their minds about self-excluding whilst being distracted by the other knock on effects caused by losing all of their money.
It is a failing policy which is why I am suggesting an easily achievable solution which is the following.

All betting shops with a self-exclusion policy MUST have an in house camera to take photo's there and then to fulfill the needs of those wishing to self-exclude.

Think about it, what is the cost of a little camera that they can use via USB to the computers, just one gambling addict on one day could pay for that alone and that is a sure fact.

This needs to happen to change the way we think and care about those in our communities.

If you're still not convinced that this is a problem that's well worth tackling, then here's a selection of videos from when I was in the thick of my campaigning.

Take care.


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