Scott Baldwin: Wales and Harlequins hooker reveals gambling problem

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'I'm ashamed' - Wales and Harlequins hooker Scott Baldwin reveals gambling problem

Wales hooker Scott Baldwin has revealed he has been battling with a gambling problem during his life.

Baldwin says he has lost "tens of thousands of pounds" after admitting he was "addicted" to gambling.

The 31-year-old says he has now stopped totally because of his young family.

"It's one of those addictions that no one will know other than you or the people you want to know," Baldwin told the Scrum V podcast.

He added: "Ultimately no one knows anything about people's finances unless you want to tell them."

The former Ospreys front-rower played 34 times for Wales between 2013 and 2017 and was part of the 2015 World Cup squad that reached the quarter-finals.

The Harlequins hooker has now bravely spoken about an issue that blighted his life before he put a halt to it.

Baldwin says he had battled a gambling problem from the age of 15 until about 2015 when he knew he had to stop because of his young family.

He says he never went to casinos, but his issues started with machine in pubs, poker and included playing roulette online.

'I went to Italy, I wasn't on much money'

Scott Baldwin with son Sonny at the Ospreys Pro14 match against Dragons in March 2019
Scott Baldwin with son Sonny at the Ospreys Pro14 match against Dragons in March 2019

Baldwin started his career with Welsh region Ospreys, but spent time on loan with ASR Milano in Italy in 2011 when the problem intensified.

"This is probably not where the gambling 'started started' but I went to Italy, I wasn't on much money," said Baldwin.

"I was there two or three months. I'd be sitting in my one bedroom flat on my phone just gambling. It's so accessible it's ridiculous.

"You just go online, sign into an account and just spin. I was like just literally tapping a button. That's all it is, tapping a button waiting to see where the number lands. If you've got the number you win, if you haven't you don't.

"Ultimately I'd always lose and no matter how much I'd win, I'd always want more and I'd always know deep down whenever I won I'd always lose. Because when I had a big win, at some point getting that big win I was in a hole.

"I was down (money) significantly. You have to keep increasing your bets, you need to win more so you need to bet more.

"It's not the winning looking back now which was the buzz, it was the chase of when you were losing rather than when you hit it to get it back.

"It doesn't make any sense, I've had this conversation with my wife since and she doesn't understand it."

Baldwin admitted he was gambling big sums even at the beginning of his Wales career.

"Tens of thousands, it's a lot of money," said Baldwin.

No debt, but Baldwin 'lost a lot of money'

Scott Baldwin in action against South Africa in November 2016
Scott Baldwin in action against South Africa in November 2016

"There was an autumn campaign with Wales where I'd gone from being on £12,000 a year to all of a sudden your campaign goes well and you get £50-60k before tax or whatever and you're like 'wow' I've got this lump sum.

"So you think 'If I lose a £1,000 that's alright because I've got a lot more'. Whether I lost £10 or £1,000, whatever I had in my back account, I would go until I got that £10 back or my bank account was empty.

"I never got into debt gambling. But I lost a lot of money I shouldn't have lost, due to gambling."

Baldwin revealed the reason why he stopped.

"It was only when I met my wife and had my little boy I stopped and realised," said Baldwin.

"Someone said to me something along the lines of 'If you wouldn't want your son to do it, why would you do it' and that sat with me.

"You're never going to win enough to change your life, but you could easily lose enough to change your life. So that's something that sits poignantly with me and something I live by in my mind every day.

"I am an addict, but I'm not an active addict if that makes sense.

"I don't gamble anymore at all, nothing at all.

"I've written that down in my phone - 'I'm Scott Baldwin and I'm an addicted gambler'. You do have the thoughts every now and again."

Offer to help others

Baldwin revealed why he has chosen to speak publicly now.

"A rugby player recently has rung me to have a chat," said Baldwin.

"He's been in a hole and just asked me how I dealt with it, and would I be supportive for him if he speaks to his family, his network? And I said 'Of course I will mate'.

"I'd like to think by doing this and being proactive it shows that you can come back from things.

"Regardless of whether you're a troublemaker when you're younger, whether it's gambling, whether it's not hitting your targets or whatever, there's always a way back from it.

"There's always someone there if you need it and if you look for the help.

"Any player, I would always be open if they want to message or get in touch with me, I'd openly speak to anyone about anything."

If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this podcast, visit bbc.co.uk/actionline to seek further information and support.

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