Problem Gambling — The Different Extremes (Real Life Cases)

Whilst I have never suffered from a gambling problem or addiction myself, I have known several people to go through — or show signs of — a gambling problem of some degree.

It’s alarming how many people slip into a downward spiral through compulsive betting. But it’s easy to emphasise and relate to the emotions they’re going through. Whilst I promote gambling, I don’t encourage people to destroy their lives from it.

In the following section I reveal three real-life cases that subscribers to Punter2Pro have shared with me over email & Skype, and allowed our transcripts to be published in this post. 


Case 1: Recognising The Gambling Problem & Acting On It

What happened?

“A work colleague of mine experienced a bad run of results on football betting. He was feeling down about the sum he lost, which amounted to around £5k, and he desperately wanted to make it back. He was particularly annoyed at himself for raising his bet stakes and finding himself in his position; it was occupying his thoughts at the time and causing him stress. It’s odd though, as he was perhaps the most organised, methodical, cautious person i knew in the workplace.”

Could he afford to do this?

“His salary was around 30k… so the impact of the loss was fairly significant.”

What happened next?

“At the point this happened, he was at a crossroads: he could either continue to bet and try to win the money back or otherwise quit in order to prevent this happening again. He was frightened of losing large sums again, so he made a point of managing his own risk levels in his bookie accounts. He cut down the betting and became very rigid about how often he will gamble. I think it hurts a little to think about those losses, but its not hindering his thoughts like it did.”


Case 2: Recognising The Gambling Problem, But Choosing Not To Act

What happened?

“When i was in sixth form I was regularly betting high stakes on football, darts, tennis & F1. It got to the point where my stake sizes and tolerance for losses were pretty high. I could be out having a meal at a restaurant and I’d casually place £200 single bets on my mobile — no sweat. It’s weird, I can remember pondering whether I should get a £5 desert, but NO questions asked about the next bet… That was what alarmed others.

Could you afford to do this?

“At this time i think income was around £20k and I had lost just over 10k that year from sports betting. I kept it to myself, and i could handle it. But looking back I was a little too accepting of the losses, and was convinced I was due a good string of results.”

What happened next?

“Initially I had no real intentions of changing the way I was betting, and thought I was smart. This “problem”, if we can call it that, hadn’t spilled out into my social life or anything, and I considered everything to be under control. But I was living at home with my mum, without paying bills. As time went on and i had more responsibilities, i came to the conclusion it wasn’t always going to turn a corner. I cut back. I was in pretty deep by this stage and my circumstances meant I couldn’t risk losing any more. I admitted to my mates (a while after) that it had got out of hand and I laughed it off. I do still gamble quite frequently but I don’t bet the size that I used to — the sort of size where i would land myself in an uncomfortable position, waiting for the next paycheck to fix it.”


Case 3: Recognising The Gambling Problem, But Being Incapable Of Acting

What happened?

“A severe case occurred with a distant relative. As I understand, over a period of around 25 years he bet compulsively on pretty much anything – roulette, football, horse racing, greyhounds, tennis, fruit machines… it lead to the loss of over £1m in assets and a divorce after 20 years of marriage.

Could he afford to do this?

“His salary was around 35k. The gambling was far beyond his means.”

What happened next?

“The stress his habit put on himself and his family was huge. He’s not a self indulgent or horrible person, but to an outsider his problem might make him sound that way. He lost his assets at intervals after stopping/starting gambling many times. Plus some additional loans and debts. Over the years he has been to many help groups for Problem Gamblers, but unfortunately the problem persists.”


Understanding Cases Of Problem Gambling

If someone is struggling to control their gambling behaviour and it can causes stress, depression or anxiety then it is considered problem gambling. I believe that this is certainly true for Case 3, and probably applicable to some extent, to Cases 1 & 2.

There are of course many people who could lose sums of money like in Cases 1 and 2 and it wouldn’t be considered a “problem” relative to their income; if you make £100k a year and lost £5k it’s probably not going to run you into financial turmoil. It is however worth remembering that people with similar behaviours to those described in Cases 1 and 2 may have the potential to increasingly veer towards the behaviour of a serious problem gambler. In rare cases, this may lead to situations similar to that described in our Case 3; but fortunately for most of us it wouldn’t realistically happen.

Sadly, there are even more extreme examples of Problem Gambling than any of the cases described. Others may steal money to fund their habit. In some cases gambling addiction can become the sole focus of a person’s life; they think about it all the time and it is all they want to do, whether they are happy, depressed or broke. Even when they know the odds are against them and they cannot afford to lose, they will be unable to take their eye off the next bet. 

Rather than confront their problem many people that compulsively gamble will go to great lengths to hide it. Hiding a habit is actually very common, and i have myself herd gamblers say phrases like “I keep it close to my chest”, in reference to not discussing their losses. Reasons for secrecy vary — but it is perhaps out of fear and shame that their friends and family will discover how much they throw away on their habit.

Strikingly, none of the above 3 cases describe “bad” people. They are all people with good character traits, and perhaps not what we may instantly associate with a problem gambler. A problem gambler can indeed be smart, meticulous, sociable or kind. It’s not a criticism of one’s character, but like many other addictions, it can certainly result in uncharacteristic behaviour.

Unlike other addictions such as alcohol or drugs, compulsive gamblers will not have easily visible physical effects. This means you are unlikely to know someone has a gambling problem unless they tell you. Failing to recognise and get help for a gambling problem can cause a lot of disruption and harm to the lives of the gambler and those around them. People with a severe gambling addiction are normally under a lot of stress from worrying about money and this can lead to depression or anxiety, and difficulties in their working life. 

If you feel that gambling is, or could become, a problem for you or someone you know, then please read our Problem Gambling & Addiction Q&A.


Further Reading:

Q&A: Gambling Problems & Addiction

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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