Gambling Addiction Stories Every Canadian Should Read Before Betting Online
Gambling Addiction Stories Every Canadian Should Read Before Betting Online
Gambling is big business in Canada. Most forms of gambling are legal in the country from the age of 18 or 19 depending on which province or territory you are in and what kind of gambling you are doing. This includes playing lotteries, Scratch and Win cards, betting on sports or horse races, or gambling in land-based or online casinos.
For most people, gambling is a fun and exciting pastime. They are able to play their favorite games, win some money or lose an amount they can afford to lose, and walk away having had a great time. This is the case for more than 95% of Canadians who gamble occasionally or even regularly.
However, there is a darker side to gambling for some. That dark side is gambling addiction. Experts estimate that only a little over 4% of Canadians are problem gamblers but, according to studies, these gamblers make up almost 25% of Canadian gambling revenue. This is especially troubling when you see that Canadians lose more than $560 per adult, per year on gambling. This represents the 4th most money lost on gambling in the world.
Even though the number of problem gamblers in Canada is relatively small, if you or someone you know is or becomes a problem gambler, the issue is not small at all. Betting in online casinos, whether you play slot games or other casino games, can be a gateway to gambling addiction. This is why you need to be careful before you make you sign up for an account and get your first deposit bonus.
To help show you how easily gambling addiction can take hold, the consequences of it, and how it can happen to seemingly anyone, we have compiled a few gambling addiction stories to share with you. These are just a few of the devastating stories about how gambling addictions have destroyed relationships, torn families apart, and ruined lives. Here are four gambling addiction stories every Canadian should read before betting online.
It Can Happen to Anyone
There is no one type of gambling addict. Studies have shown that there are some and traits that many gambling addicts but every gambling addict is different. They come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, and become gambling addicts in different ways. The gambling addiction stories below illustrate that gambling addiction can happen to all types of people.
Andy moves to the “lion’s den”
In his personal gambling addiction story, “Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Vegas: My Gambling Addiction Story”, Andy shares the story of how he made his first bet on a slot game on a vacation to Las Vegas in 2007. Looking back, he now knows he was hooked then. He took multiple vacations to Vegas in the next few years and would spend the entire time gambling, often losing what little money he had as a student.
He would return to New York, and then Seattle, and go back to his normal life, studying and interning in the pursuit of becoming a nutritionist. Things changed though when, after unsuccessfully looking for work in his field for six months, Andy finally found a job. It was a dream job for Andy; a full-time health coaching position that was exactly what he was looking for. The only problem for Andy was, he had to move to Las Vegas for the job.
Jodie’s addictive personality gets reignited
Jodie proudly shares her stories of overcoming addiction right at the beginning of her story, “Compulsive gambling is an illness to which I lost nearly everything. Nearly”. These aren’t her gambling addiction stories though. When she was in her 20s, she recovered from an addiction to cigarettes. In her 30s, she recovered from her addiction to alcohol. In her 50s, she shares that she was in a very happy place. As she describes it, “I loved where I lived, I loved who I was with and I loved what I did.”
Her story of gambling addiction starts when she attended a work conference at a casino. On a break in the conference, she played a slot machine and she won money. Like a lot of problem gamblers who share their gambling addiction stories, she says she got a rush from that win. That triggered the obsessive and addictive part of her brain. In her 50s, she was already well-aware this part of her existed but, once it was reignited after more than a decade of being dormant, there was nothing she could do.
Denise’s husband David has a secret
The gambling addiction stories in, “One woman shares her harrowing story of husband's gambling addiction: '£500K in debt'” start with Denise describing her seemingly nice life with her husband David and their three boys. To Denise, her husband of 30-years was a hard-working accountant who provided a nice life for the family. They owned a house, took vacations, and drove nice cars.
This started to change when David suddenly lost his job in 2012. All of the sudden, there was no money in savings to meet the family’s basic needs. David took care of all the finances so Denise couldn’t tell what was really happening. David got a new job that helped put their finances back on track but that took him out of town for most of the week. Denise started to feel better until one day she got a phone call the person on the other end said that David was going to jail for two years.
Steve’s son starts out as an average teenage gamer
The BBC’s “How my son went from gamer to compulsive gambler” begins with a father, Steve, telling a reporter, “Not in a million years, not in a million years did I think that gaming could lead to compulsive gambling.” Unfortunately, Steve was wrong. His son’s gambling addiction stories don’t start with online gambling – although that became the problem – it starts with spending hours online playing football (soccer) games with his friends online.
Steve’s son (not specifically named in the piece) would spend hours online playing these games with his friends. Steve and his wife saw this as mostly harmless fun. A new, techy form of entertainment that they didn’t totally understand but also didn’t see as being bad. These games encouraged players to buy card packs that contained different pro athletes. Gamers would open these packs and see if they got a superstar or just a bench player. This is where chasing the thrill of winning started.
The Downward Spiral Comes Fast
While no two gamblers have the exact same gambling addiction stories, they all become similar after a while. A little gambling leads to a lot. A balance of winning and losing becomes gambling until you have lost everything every time. Money comes in, money goes out and that is when the problems really start.
Living in Las Vegas, Andy’s gambling problem takes off
In a new city with very few friends, Andy turned to gambling to fill the hours he wasn’t working at his new job. Within six weeks of being a Vegas resident, Andy’s occasional two-hour weekend gambling sessions turned into eight to 12-hour binges. He would walk into the casino with $2,000 and walk out with $200. He would be up $600 or would win a $3,000 jackpot but couldn’t walk away until it was all gone. Andy kept up his professional life but personally, he was in a very bad spot.
Jodie returns from the conference and heads to the casino
Looking to recapture that high of her win at the conference, Jodie started visiting local casinos regularly when she returned home. Like many gambling addiction stories, it wasn’t long before she was losing an incredible amount of money. She started playing $100 slots and $200-a-spin. The bigger risk, the bigger the high in her addiction-gripped mind. After just six months, Jodie had burned through hundreds of thousands of dollars including borrowed money, credit cards, and a home equity loan.
Denise doesn’t share David’s gambling habits, just the results
In Denise and David’s gambling addiction stories, Denise doesn’t go deep into David’s 30-year gambling addiction. She doesn’t share what games he played or how and when he lost money. All she shares is the results when she finally looked into their finances after David went to jail. He had taken out a second mortgage on the house in secret and racked up 21 total loans. The final bill came to Denise and David being £500,000 in debt.
Steve’s son graduates from gaming to gambling
When Steve’s son reached the legal age for gambling online, his gambling addiction stories really took off. His game of choice was online roulette. His addiction took hold and soon, he would be losing a week’s wages in a matter of moments. When he went to his parents for financial help, they helped pay off his debt, not knowing exactly how deep his gambling addiction had become.
Rock Bottom Comes for All Gambling Addicts
Even if gambling addiction stories end well, there is always almost a moment when the life of a gambling addict bottoms out. When all the debts and the lies and the deceptions that come from the addiction finally become too much, a gambling addict will hit rock bottom. It is an awful situation but, the silver lining for many is that it is the push they need to seek help. It is what ultimately turns gambling addiction stories into addiction recovery stories.
Andy hears that he’s “a financially responsible guy”
Andy always considered himself a financially responsible person. He would even watch Suze Orman’s financial advice show to help his bank account before these gambling addiction stories started. At the depths of his addiction, Andy would sit in his car at the casino until his direct deposit paycheck came through at midnight then go right in and gamble it all away on the slots.
This problem ruined his finances. At a point in his life where he expected to be successful and financially set up, he had nothing. The week before a trip with his boss, Andy had entered a $1,500 slots tournament where he only won back $50 in free slots play. When his boss offhandedly that Andy seemed like “a financially responsible guy”, that statement hit home for Andy and he confessed his gambling addiction. This was his first step on the road to recovery.
Jodie goes to jail
Just two years after Jodie made that fateful wager at a work conference, she had burned through hundreds of thousands of dollars and stole from her job to help finance her gambling habit. Two years after that, at the age of 55, she was in jail for larceny. Jodie says that she believed if she could just get more money, she could eventually win enough to make things right. This, of course, never happened and her addiction led her to break the law.
Not all gambling addiction stories end up in prison but, for Jodie, that is what it took to hit rock bottom. As she tells it, she was “a Master's educated, intelligent woman who should have known better” but still, she ended up in jail. It is a sad tale but it gave Jodie the time to think and the time to figure out a plan to deal with her addiction.
Denise unloads on David in a phone call from jail
Like the gambling addiction stories shared but Jodie, David also had to resort to stealing from his employer in order to feed his gambling addiction habit. Also like Jodie, this action eventually caught up with him and landed him a two-year jail term. While the lost money and even the jail time were awful for David, rock bottom may have been a jailhouse phone call with his wife of three decades.
In the first extended call from jail with David, Denise let her husband have it. She shouted, she screamed, she chastised. She asked the man she thought she knew how could he be so stupid to ruin not just his but their whole family’s life. While the story doesn’t share David’s perspective on the situation, Denise does say he was remorseful. It is hard not to imagine that this phone call was truly rock bottom for David after all that transpired.
Steve’s son loses huge amounts of money
Steve doesn’t share with the BBC reporter exactly what his son's rock bottom moment was. The most he says is that he “was shocked to find out his son was gambling with other people's money and losing large amounts.” This shock wasn’t the point where Steve got help for his son though. Like many family members of gambling addicts, he didn’t know what to do. He and his wife felt helpless and responded by withdrawing from their own lives. Luckily, they also did research and searched for solutions.
What he found was that there were plenty of gambling addiction stories similar to his son’s story. Video games that offer gambling-style in-game purchases were grooming children at younger and younger ages to become gamblers. This, coupled with kids being used to spending hours on online gaming, is creating a generation of problem online gamblers. Once Steve Understood this, he was able to get the right help for his son.
Recovery is Possible
Gambling addiction is a terrible thing. These stories are horrible, hard to read, and all too common. The bright spot is that all these stories end in recovery. These people all turned their lives around and are helping others by sharing their stories. They still struggle with their addiction all the time but they all project the same message; recovery is possible.
Andy’s boss helps him enter a program
After Andy confessed to his boss, his boss encouraged and helped him enter a 12-step program to fight his gambling addiction. During his first meeting, Andy cried profusely. Not while sharing his story but while hearing others’ stories. The shared stories of addiction and recovery gave him an overwhelming feeling of hope.
Part of Andy’s plan was always to leave Las Vegas while working on his recovery so he could avoid temptation. That hasn’t happened though. He dealt with the addiction and realized it was caused by issues within himself, not the city he lived in. When Andy wrote his story, he was over a year past his last bet.
Jodie gets out of jail and takes recovery one day at a time
After Jodie was released from prison, she lost her house and her marriage as well. Even with the long-lasting fallout from her gambling addiction, Jodie remains an optimist. She entered a 12-step program and learned about the similarities and the differences between her substance abuse issues and her gambling addiction. She started dealing with the internal problems she had long felt that led to these addictions.
Jodie was out of jail for about five years when she authored her story. At the time, she was six years gambling-free and 22 years sober. She took her problems and turned them into a vocation. She went back to school and got a degree and a certificate in Addiction Counseling in 2012. As of 2015, Jodie was working as the Intervention and Recovery Support Coordinator at the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.
David makes amends to his wife and family
David also got out of jail after two years and returned home. In prison, he joined a gambling addicts support group and, when he got out, he went to Gamblers Anonymous. He still struggles with employment and financial issues but he has worked hard to keep his family together. With his son, David established a gambling addict-related charity called Safer Online Gambling Group. And, while they’ve had their ups and downs since David returned, his and Denise’s marriage is still intact and, to hear Denise tell it, getting stronger all the time.
Steve works to help others after his son’s recovery
Steve doesn’t use his last name or his son’s name in the BBC piece in order to protect his son. The reporter writes in the article, “His son, now in his early 20s, is in recovery and doing well, ‘but we take one day at a time’ he says.”
For his part, Steve left his job in 2019 to start a charity called GamFam. The aim is to help families dealing with a gambling addiction in their children like his family had to. The advice that Steve gives to parents is to exercise more control over their children’s gaming habits when they are young so those habits don’t blossom into gambling addiction.
These gambling addiction stories are all very different but, in many ways, are the same. Each of these gambling addicts were different ages and at different points in life. Their addiction manifested itself differently and led to different consequences. They all took a different path to recovery as well.
What these gambling addiction stories have in common though is that they all followed the same path. These addicts all started gambling for reasons that made sense to them, they quickly spiraled into addiction, and they all eventually hit rock bottom. This is the path that is so familiar to so many problem gamblers in Canada and around the world.
The final thing that they all have in common though is that they found the road to recovery. It wasn’t an easy place to get to and the path will be littered with challenges along the way but, at the end of their gambling addiction stories, they had all made it to a better place. Hopefully, these stories can give hope to gambling addicts and show them that they are not unique in their struggles or alone.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, it is never too late to ask for help. There are specialized gambling addiction hotlines in each province and territory that are available to Canadians 24/7/365. If you need help in any way with gambling addiction, the Canada Safety Council had a full list of hotlines that can help.
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