Wales

Fixed-odds betting machines 'ruined my life'

Terry White

Fixed-odds betting terminals currently allow people in the UK to bet £100 every 20 seconds. A 12-week consultation is underway which could potentially cut the maximum stake to £2 per game.

53-year-old Terry White, from Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, has lost hundreds of thousands of pounds on fixed-odds machines and is calling for a cap on the number of terminals on the high street.

He shares his story:

I am a gambler. I've been a gambler all my life.

I started 35 years ago and the majority of bets were on horses and sport. There was a skill element to it - that horse is going to win or Liverpool are going to win tonight. You could do your research and become good at it.

And I was good at it. I won about £250,000 over 25 years. But it was soft, recreational gambling.

Then one day I walked into a betting shop and there were these machines there. They looked like the sort of machines you would find in arcades or at the seaside - they looked fun.

In the early days, just after the millennium, the machines had a limit of £5 or £10 and it was £1 per spin. It would take about 10 minutes to play £10.

Over the next few years they increased it to £100 per spin, which only took 20 seconds. Effectively, you could lose £300 in a minute. Even if you were winning you could lose several thousand pounds in an hour.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fixed-odds betting machines have games similar to fruit machines, as well as roulette and blackjack

The adrenaline is completely different because it is all happening live, in front of you. I was bored gambling on sport and I sought a fresh buzz.

But you leave yourself at the behest of a random number generator and soon I realised I was losing between £10,000 and £15,000 per week. One week I lost £40,000 of profit and it left me stunned and shocked and ashamed of myself for blowing all my money in one afternoon in a betting shop. I have lost about a quarter of a million in total.

I take responsibility for my actions but my addiction is overwhelming. I have suffered bereavements over the last few years and when my depression was getting worse I would go into a betting shop. It became a crutch but also a burden.

I lost my house, I've stolen, I've lied to people. To this day I'm £40,000 in debt. I'm moving into council accommodation soon, otherwise I would have been homeless. I could be declared bankrupt soon.

'Cannot beat them'

The low point was a suicide attempt in December. I was in hospital for three days. The pain of the addiction hits you from the moment you wake up and I've got nothing left to live for.

The fact this is all on the high street is a nightmare for an addict. I would not go to a casino because of the effort of getting dressed up and going to a venue, but there are at least seven on the high street in Barry and you cannot go into a betting shop without seeing a machine.

I'll go weeks without food and neglect my health. I haven't left the house for 15 days as I try to force myself to go cold turkey.

I am scared of going grocery shopping in case I end up in a betting shop and I am getting no help or therapy for my illness. I still have a compulsion to go into betting shops.

Now my body is used to £60 spins I could not go back to playing with £5 because I'll always be thinking "why didn't I bet more?"

The limits on winnings are also a problem. As a gambler there's a compulsion to win your money back but you need to win twice to win back 10 spins.

Gamble Aware have a motto: "When the fun stops - stop". But gambling is not fun. When you're gambling your wages, your benefits or your life savings it cannot possibly be fun.

But the moment the credit is in the machine in front of me I am relaxed. When it is gone I am just thinking about where my next amount of money is coming from.

I hope people realise this can happen to anybody. I like to think I'm an intelligent person but this compulsion has ruined my life.

My message is to stop going into these places, because you cannot beat them.

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