If you needed any convincing that gambling is a mug’s game, figures released by online casino CastleCasino (and reported in the Brighton Argus) showed gamblers in Brighton and Hove lost an average £343.43 a year each, with punters from the City losing £147,500 each year. Those in Worthing lost an average of £431.97, in total about £77,000 a year with only Middlesbrough (£479.29) and Liverpool (£482.42) faring worse.
That’s the average. There are people losing much, much more.
When I was young I used to see, on my way back from school on a Friday evening, migrant workers who worked in the docks in Cape Town, being duped by the ‘pea in the bottle top’ scam. The promise of doubling their meagre wages was too great, and when in a matter of minutes they had lost their entire weekly wage packet, their distressed pleas for a refund were dismissed.
I am still haunted by the pathetic wailing of a middle aged man whose distress was met by laughter and contempt.
I have a mixed emotional reaction to gambling. On the one hand I can see the adrenalin charged attraction, a quick win, something for nothing. On the other hand, the plight of that labourer, unable to send money home to his family, remains with me, and I feel sick the pit of my stomach.
During this time of austerity, desperate people do desperate things, but gambling is not the answer. Like alcohol and drugs, for many people it is something that goes no further than a recreational activity. For others, it becomes the problem, destroying relationships, families and lives.
A stark warning about gambling comes from Dr Richard Bowskill of the Priory clinic in Hove, quoted in the Argus: “It’s an average so there will be people who lose more – it is still high compared to annual disposable income. In that group will be people spending much more which can often be a sign of gambling addiction. When I see people they have already got into trouble, sometimes in the tens of thousands of pounds. I have seen patients have to make themselves bankrupt. Some people have lost their homes, and the problem with an addiction is they keep on doing it.”
There is help available, including the support of Gamblers Anonymous Brighton and Hove:
- To help people with gambling problems.
- Meetings every Friday, 8-10pm on the ground floor of The Allen Centre.
- The Allen Centre, 60 Sackville Gardens, Hove, BN3 4GH [map]
- 01273 595961