A mother-of-two whose husband lost NZ$200,000 (£101,000; $132,000) gambling has spoken out urging others to be aware of the warning signs.
Forced to sell their home
The woman, from Christchurch, New Zealand, spoke to Stuff about her husband’s gambling problem, which he had managed to hide for over 10 years. As a result of his gambling debt, the family were forced to sell their home and the couple’s 20-year marriage broke down. To fund his habit he was able to take out loans from 10 finance firms.
Speaking about the early warning signs, she first became aware of her husband gambling 14 or 15 years ago when she saw him in the TAB, a betting venue. At the time, when he said it was a one-off she believed him.
“I realize now that I married a compulsive gambler, but I didn’t know that at the time. He was incredibly convincing so I went along with it.”
She did, however, notice warning signs, but once again she simply put them to one side. These included her getting into the car and hearing the radio tuned to the racing channel, and no longer having access to the bank card or the bank account. If she wanted to buy things – food or clothing for the children – he gave her cash.
Acting on her suspicions last July, she opened a letter addressed to him to find that he owed thousands to a finance company. She said she could not understand how one person was able to rack up a debt close to NZ$200,000.
After he moved out last October, she explained there was no way she could take him back as her trust in him had gone. As a consequence, it had had a huge impact on her family.
“It’s the worst addiction because you can’t see it,” she said. “It’s the most insidious addiction, people need to be aware of what to look out for and act on their suspicions.”
Not the last case
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first case nor is it likely to be the last that involves a gambling addict.
Countless news reports have already been published highlighting the impact that gambling can have on a person’s life including those around them.
For example, a care worker from the UK was reported to have stolen nearly £8,000 ($10,400) from an 87-year-old woman to fund her gambling habit. Notot only did the elderly woman die before she found out the true extent of the theft, but she may have only thought that £20 ($26) was missing.
The woman in question, who faced being taken away from her children, was given a 10-month jail term suspended for 18 months.
New protection measures coming
Gambling companies are being asked to take more action to protect gamblers and ensure they are not gambling more than they can afford.
In Denmark, for example, a new code of conduct comes into force on July 1 with the aim of reducing problem gambling. The amount of marketing for gambling games is to be limited, particularly toward children, who may see a form of entertainment turning into a gambling problem.
Elsewhere, from this month, gamblers in the UK are required to pass strict age and ID checks first before they can place a bet online. This is part of a new self-exclusion scheme for online addicts.