A former gambler has revealed that he stole vast sums of money in order to fuel his gambling obsession.
Tony O’Reilly started gambling with just a £1 bet, but he was soon hooked. His habit quickly spiralled out of control and he was stealing from his workplace to gamble.
He said that gambling meant that “everything from the outside looked really, really good, but simmering underneath was this addiction that was growing.”
Wedding gifts gone
O’Reilly, who lives in Ireland, shared how he gambled away €6,000 that ought to have been saved for his wedding. When he couldn’t recover the money, his fiancée’s father offered to pay instead.
But he didn’t change his behaviour and continued betting while on honeymoon.
“Before I knew it, I had lost €1,000. Then the chase element came in and there was €2,000 gone.” Soon, all the money the couple had been gifted was gone.
Tony continued to hide his gambling debts from his wife, and when they found they were expecting a baby, he began to steal.
As a postal branch manager, he had access to significant amounts of money, and within a couple of weeks, he had stolen almost €300,000.
He continued to steal, increasing the total taken from his employers to €900,000, and continuing to lose it. In a desperate attempt to “fix the situation”, he placed 31 bets on one day in an attempt to double the €462,000 that remained. Instead he lost the entire sum.
By the end, Tony had stolen €1.75 million, and when it became clear he would be caught, he ran away. Even then he continued gambling from his hotel room. When the police caught him, he said he found it was actually a relief because he no longer had to hide his addiction.
Now a gambling addiction counsellor, Tony says he is “still dealing with some of the consequences” of his actions, including going to prison, his marriage ending, losing his house, and damaging other relationships.
He says he wants to make a positive impact for his daughter: “I want to be able to turn around to her, whenever I tell her, and be able to say ‘Yes, I did make a mistake, yes I did mess up, but this is what I’ve done since. This is the person I’ve become.’”
In the UK, the Government is currently considering reforms to gambling law, which could see the most significant changes to advertising and the running of the industry since the introduction of the 2005 Gambling Act.