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A dream holiday was not on the cards for Tony Chessa when he flew out to the Caribbean island of St Kitts on Friday.

Instead the 32-year-old from Greenock has been facing an intense work schedule, taking on some of the world’s best poker players.

Tony Chessa won sponsorship to play poker

“I know from previous trips abroad for tournaments that I’ll be lucky to even see the swimming pool,” he said.

“Not that I’m complaining – I love travelling all over the world to play poker, even if I never see much of the exotic places I visit.

“If you’d told me three years ago this is how I’d be making my living I’d have laughed out loud.”

Tony is Scotland’s only professional poker player with a major sponsor.

This weekend he has been raising the stakes at the 10-day Caribbean Poker Classic for a $2m prize pool.

But Tony has not been the only Scot to be given the opportunity to play poker in the luxury surroundings of the Caribbean resort.

Online gambling has brought the likes of Lucia Barret to the game – a 45-year-old hairdresser from Edinburgh.

She is one of 15 amateurs attending the event courtesy of gaming giant, Littlewoods, after winning $10,000 prize packages on internet poker.

Gambling has no longer been restricted to people who frequent high street betting shops and backstreet gambling dens.

Remote gambling

A new generation of gamblers has been emerged, playing from the comfort of their own home through the internet, mobile phones and interactive television.

Gambling is fast becoming a massive entertainment industry with cheap holidays to Las Vegas in the US and plans to build massive casino complexes in the UK.

Andrew Tottenham, a former chairman of the gambling association, iGGBA, said it was increasingly being seen as a normal leisure activity.

“People are much more open about their enjoyment of gambling than they were 10 or 15 years ago,” he said.

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Online poker has brought more people to the game

But experts have warned the increase in gambling could send rates of addiction soaring.

Andrew Poole from the national gambling help charity, Gamcare, said the internet was addictive in its own right.

“Add to that the excitement of potentially winning some money and the glitz and glam which comes with most forms of gambling, then I think you’ve got quite a heady mix,” he said.

“Through remote forms of gambling you’re not actually handing over cash to participate.

“It’s coming off a credit or debit cards so quite often people lose a sense of the reality of the money that they are playing with.

“If we see more people gambling then without a doubt we will see an increase in the number of people getting into difficulty.”

Industry responsibility

But he added that the UK Government had a strong reputation for its regulation around gambling and he said the new gambling legislation introduced earlier this year would strengthen that.

Mr Tottenham denied addiction rates would rise.

He said: “You either have an addiction or you don’t. Having more gambling products available does not mean addiction rates are going to go through the roof. Evidence around the world would not suggest that.

“As long as the industry is responsible in how it promotes itself and gives information to its customers about gambling sensibly then I think that the risks can be mitigated.”

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