A recovering gambling addict who lost over £700,000 has warned that the lockdown has created the “perfect storm” for relapse.
Matt Blanks welcomed the promise by Britain’s largest betting firms to end all television and radio gambling advertising for at least six weeks during the lockdown, but said it was still a “perfect storm and set of conditions for a relapse.”
Last month, the gambling industry was told that it must do more to protect gamblers, following a surge of online betting during the coronavirus pandemic.
Blanks described how his addiction “damaged all the relationships in my life”. After spending all his income on bets, he would ask his family for money, claiming he had “been mugged” or “hadn’t been paid”.
He said: “I told my mum I’d stop. But, in reality, I was manipulating her, and although she tried to help bail me out I ended up blowing it all”.
Later, his gambling obsession caused his relationship with his partner to break down. He said: “It got so bad it seemed as if I was having an affair. I’d pretend to go to the toilet, but I was looking at races and placing bets.
“I always thought I’d get the money back. I was always chasing that final, life changing win.”
After attempting suicide, Blanks realised he needed to stop gambling and attended a treatment course.
Now he works at Betknowmore UK, where he shares his story to help other addicts. He is also project manager of a peer support programme run by GamCare and GambleAware.
Last month, The Gambling Commission instructed firms to contact gamblers who have played online continuously for an hour, to establish how at risk they are and determine whether further action needs to be taken.
Previously, there was no specified time of continuous betting that gamblers had to reach before firms were required to contact them. The new guidance also explains that sending an automated alert or email to the gambler will no longer be sufficient.