Connect with us


Edinburgh man lost £60K redundancy payout in gambling habit begun with 50p bets



An Edinburgh man who once lost £60,000 of redundancy money has started his own gambling support service in order to help tackle the scourge of problem gambling.

Chris Lee, 54, from Canonmills is extremely open about his past and says that if opening up can help one person then it has all been worth it.

He began gambling in 1981 after putting on a 50p bet that returned just over £4 – and from there he was hooked – that is until last year.

The former British Gas worker would gamble on anything and everything relating to sport: from football to boxing to horse racing amongst many others.

But he says the real problem arose when mobile/online gambling was available on smartphones.

The gambling control advocate said that it meant he was able to walk around with a bookie in his pocket that was accessible at the click of a button.

The ease with which he could bet became problematic as he would have had to walk to his local bookies in Muirhouse to put the bet on physically in the past.

On his former gambling addiction, Chris said: “I had a gambling problem from when I first put on a 50p bet in 1981 and won £4.50. That was me for 37 years until I stopped in Feb 2020.

“I pretty much gambled all the time – I was not a big stakes man or one for the machines but I could still be classed as problematic with the frequency of it all.

“But things became worse when online betting came along in 2011/12 and you had a bookie in your pocket. There was now an opportunity to do your brain in from the comfort of your own home.

“I was made redundant around 2011 and I lost a lot of the £60,000 I’d received. I just had to be playing, and it was not really about the money but it was an impulse. When the money came in, it went out again and it was just a cycle.

Sign up for Edinburgh Live’s newsletter

Get all the latest news and headlines from Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians sent straight to your inbox twice a day by signing up to our free newsletter.

From breaking news to the latest on the coronavirus crisis in Scotland, we’ll have you covered.

The morning newsletter arrives every day before 9am and the evening newsletter, manually curated by the team, is sent at 6.30pm, giving you a round up of the most important stories of the day.

To sign up to any of our newsletters, visit this link here.

“My partner has been fantastic and really supportive throughout. They did not judge me once for it. But a real turning point was this one instance, my partner left the house for whatever reason and when they came back they were in floods of tears as their dad was in the hospital with a heart attack. It was a Champions League night so I had gone out and stuck a load of bets on when she had left. But when she told me about the heart attack the first thing I thought was I’ve just put all these bets on and I asked ‘do you want me to come?’ In that instant I realised something was wrong. To not have dropped everything and rushed with my partner to the hospital was a wake up call.

“I’d like to say it never impacted my work or relationships but looking back it probably did. I made excuses for not going out and stopped going to parties and weddings by faking illness because I had no money. And when you turn down invites they stop coming and that is typical for people with addiction.

“When I was made redundant I was not in debt and I always paid my way despite being a gambler which was lucky. But I went on a betting spree with the redundancy money and ended up putting up my stakes from around a fiver to around £100.

“What shocked me was that gambling companies say they can target customers for rewards through their data sets but somehow they do not have the data to stop someone like myself in the past? It doesn’t add up and there is no real attempt to make it a safer landscape.”

Chris gave up gambling after seeking help through Gamblers Anonymous, a space that he says helped him but that he accepts may not be for everybody.

Upon kick starting his recovery, he attended a walk with other football protestors walking from Celtic Park to Ibrox as part of an initiative by The Big Step to demand greater gambling controls.

After being motivated the north Edinburgh native then started to work on setting up his own project called Chatter.

It is a peer support network helping those affected by gambling harm that also puts pressure on legislative administrations.

And although in its infancy the activist helps around 10 to 12 people regularly by offering support as someone with lived experience to talk to.

Chris Lee, 53.

He confesses that he is not asking for the gambling industry to be dismantled. But he feels their exponential profits would not be majorly harmed if gambling ads were banned from live sport much like tobacco firms were in the past and for affordability checks to be put in place.

On his recovery and quest for better gambling controls he said: “I was sitting speaking to my doctor the other day and asked what he would do if I came to him and said I had a gambling problem. To his credit he was brutally honest and said that he had no idea. The issue was he had no idea where to point me outside of Gamblers Anonymous and GAMCARE which is an industry funded support group.

“Unfortunately our health professionals would be unable to point us to the correct services even if they were aware as none seem to exist in Scotland. As a nation we are always focused on alcohol and drugs deaths which is completely understandable but we must find space for those lives that are destroyed by gambling.

“I started Chatter as I thought I could do something with my professional and personal experience. I feel I am strong enough in my recovery to help other people and the organisation will look to amplify the voices of those who have been impacted so that we can have support systems outside of the established GAMCARE.

“When you go to Gamblers Anonymous, you have to learn that the money is not coming back. I had to train my brain to forget, and since I stopped gambling, I get to the end of the month and I have money left which is a huge bonus.”

Chris says that gambling firms have blood on their hands, with one person taking their own life everyday due to gambling in the UK, a number that he feels is way higher due to the secrecy that surrounds problem gamblers.

On the issue he said: “People feel worthless and it is telling that the 20th question Gamblers Anonymous ask is ‘have you ever considered suicide?’ I’ve felt like I did not want to be on the planet in the past but luckily never got to the stage where I planned to end my own life.

“The bookies know exactly what they are doing and who to target. On a Paul Merson gambling documentary on the BBC on Monday night, there is a discussion on the latest William Hill advert that blasts Sweet Caroline – an anthem synonymous with good times – as an act of manipulation. The way the adverts are geared towards convincing you that the game or event will be better enjoyed if you put a bet on.

“We need affordability checks to be put in place so people are not losing their livelihoods and to ban gambling ads from our TVs.

“The industry will always argue that they are a vital service as they pump millions into the economy through tax each year and so there are a lot of people in the gambling trough that do not want anything to change. They’re feasting on profits over people’s lives.

“For now I’m trying to bang down doors of those in power to influence change and to support those in need. In an ideal world I’d pack in my day job and go full time. If I help just one person then it is worth it.”

If you would like to access Chatter you can do so by finding them on social media or visit their website here.

If you would like to learn more about The Big Step please visit their site here.

If you or anyone you know has been impacted by gambling and requires support then please contact Gamblers Anonymous.

Continue Reading