Humans of Scotland

Martin’s story – living with problem gambling

"You put a mask on and then behind closed doors everything caves in."

This story is about: Mental HealthAddictionGambling

“Gambling consumed all my thinking. It was all about gambling and how to get funds to fund it and how to avoid having to tell your wife you’ve done it again. It took me away from all the important things in my life.

Certain gaming machines are designed to addict you and unfortunately I was one of the ones that got addicted. The machines in the bookies were called the crack-cocaine of gambling and that’s what they were. They got introduced to the betting shop and I was just an ordinary punter but the machine took over my life. I would go out and do a twelve hour taxi shift, cash in hand, and it became a daily thing and caused problems for about 15 years of my life. Now that they’ve been restricted, operators have gone online. Everyone now has a casino in their pocket, 24/7.

People get hammered by gambling to the extent of suicide, it’s treacherous. It ruins relationships because when you’re a compulsive gambler you become a compulsive liar. There’s a stigma to it too. There’s depression and frightening anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

I was a wreck and suicidal and things had to change, I was so drained. I would be going out and doing my 12 hour shifts and I’d lose all my money within five minutes, it was devastating. I didn’t have the tools to change and the cravings were too much. You put a mask on and then behind closed doors everything caves in.

People don’t understand it. Mental health and addiction go hand in hand. It should be a public health issue. It should be about protecting our children and grandchildren. It should stop seeing the broken as people with ‘illness’ but recognise the cause of this  misery as resting with the unregulated supply of addictive products. There’s a ripple effect through society. Families, friendships, work spaces, the economy all suffer.

The adverts are 24/7, the glamourising of gambling needs to stop. I would tell people who run into big problems with gambling it’s not their own fault, the gambling industry draws people in, targets them.

I campaign now for things to change. It needs much tighter regulation. Mental health organisations need to recognise the devastation it’s causing and to highlight this as well as providing pathways to support. There needs to be a watershed for advertising though I’d prefer to see a ban on all advertising, as is the case with tobacco. Gambling also needs to be in the school curriculum, and parents need to be aware that their kids can be targeted too through advertising on loot boxes through gaming. At the end of the day, gambling generates nothing but misery.”