An man lost £60,000 of redundancy pay to his gambling addiction that started with bets of just 50p.
Chris Lee has opened up about his troubled past in the hope of inspiring others who may be struggling with a gambling problem.
The 54-year-old began betting in 1981 after a 50p flutter returned winnings of just over £4, with his addiction snowballing from there, Edinburgh Live reports.
The former British Gas worker would place wagers on any and all sporting events, including football, boxing and horse racing.
But he says the real problem arose when mobile/online gambling became available on smartphones as he was able to walk around with a bookie in his pocket that was accessible at the click of a button.
The ease with which he could bet became problematic as he would have had to walk to his local bookies in Muirhouse to put the bet on physically in the past.
On his gambling addiction, Chris said: “I had a gambling problem from when I first put on a 50p bet in 1981 and won £4.50. That was me for 37 years until I stopped in Feb 2020.
“I pretty much gambled all the time – I was not a big stakes man or one for the machines but I could still be classed as problematic with the frequency of it all.
“But things became worse when online betting came along in 2011/12 and you had a bookie in your pocket. There was now an opportunity to do your brain in from the comfort of your own home.
“I was made redundant around 2011 and I lost a lot of the £60,000 I’d received. I just had to be playing, and it was not really about the money but it was an impulse. When the money came in, it went out again and it was just a cycle.
“My partner has been fantastic and really supportive throughout. They did not judge me once for it. But a real turning point was this one instance, my partner left the house for whatever reason and when they came back they were in floods of tears as their dad was in the hospital with a heart attack.
“It was a Champions League night so I had gone out and stuck a load of bets on when she had left. But when she told me about the heart attack the first thing I thought was I’ve just put all these bets on’ and I asked ‘do you want me to come?’
“In that instant, I realised something was wrong. To not have dropped everything and rushed with my partner to the hospital was a wake-up call.
“I’d like to say it never impacted my work or relationships but looking back it probably did. I made excuses for not going out and stopped going to parties and weddings by faking illness because I had no money. And when you turn down invites they stop coming and that is typical for people with addiction.”
Chris gave up gambling after seeking help through Gamblers Anonymous, a space that he says helped him but that he accepts may not be for everybody.
He then started to work on setting up his own project called Chatter, a peer support network helping those affected by gambling harm that also puts pressure on legislative administrations.
And although in its infancy the activist helps around 10 to 12 people regularly by offering support as someone with lived experience to talk to.
If you or anyone you know has been impacted by gambling and requires support then please contact Gamblers Anonymous.