Gambling and Me: The Real Hustler - Alexis Conran
I cannot remember the last time I saw my father. In fact, I have very few precious memories of him. I remember him being strict and yet fun to be around, the problem was he was hardly ever around. Why? Because he was always running away from friends, family and the law.
From a very young age my father got hooked on gambling and he spent the rest of his life in a vicious circle trying to keep up with his losses - literally robbing Peter to pay Paul, eventually turning him into a fraudster and ultimately landing him in jail.
So here’s the irony: son of a conman gambler ends up on screen as conman specialising in card cheating. Was it a coincidence?
My parents divorced when I was seven and I had very little contact with my father since. But why is it that I took to gambling like a duck to water? My brain functions like that of a conman. My first question is always, “How can I cheat this?” Is it genetics? Maybe.
I wanted to see what destroyed the life of a highly intelligent and charming man. Filming this documentary opened my eyes to an addiction that is as serious - if not more difficult to comprehend - as that of drugs and alcohol. I remember being so shocked on the first day of filming in Las Vegas when I met a gambling addict who looked me in eyes and said that he found it easier to give up heroin and crack than to give up gambling.
How do you know what a gambling addict looks like? If your mate became an alcoholic or a drug addict, within a few weeks you’d be able to tell and you might even be able to help. As with my mother, most people only find out that their nearest and dearest has a gambling problem when it’s too late. The bailiffs are at the door, the debts are unmanageable and the betrayal of trust is irreparable.
Gambling is everywhere at the moment. You can’t watch a football match without being prompted to gamble. You can gamble online, in the high street, and on your mobile phone. However, in school there is no education about the effects of gambling like there is about drugs and alcohol.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gambling but for some people it can be a devastating addiction. I met a young guy in Blackpool who told me the roulette machine in the bookies is his best friend and yet it has ruined his life and led him to lose everything, forcing him to live in a hostel.
I am immensely proud of this documentary. It helped me deal with personal issues I
needed to deal with concerning my father and I hope it brings the subject of gambling addiction into the public awareness.
Gambling and Me: The Real Hustler is on Wednesday 21st March at 9pm
For information and advice on gambling, go to BBC Health.