Hoping for the Jackpot

National lottery, slot machines, sports events, casinos – there is a wide range of gaming offers in the UK. For the most people there is nothing special about it but for others it’s a risk to get addicted to it. Always hoping for the jackpot – a never-ending game. Especially in the West Midlands, gambling is becoming a major problem with almost 75% of the population gambling regularly. 26 years ago, James Smith (changed name) was one of them.

Unhappy with his current situation, James hoped for a bit distraction and the big jackpot. As soon as one casino closed its doors, he went to the next gaming hall. “After a while I noticed by myself that what I was doing wasn’t great but dismissed it as a bad habit”, says James about his early days of the gambling addiction. Flashing casino lights and open gambling halls everywhere: “I felt like I was in paradise – or in hell.”

Nearly a criminal

“The gamblers who lose their money while playing always think they’re the better ones because they’re the real gamblers who take a risk. When you’ve already been unsuccessful you really believe that after all the losses there has to be a profit. A gambler won’t lay on probability, he lays on the smallest chance with the highest profit opportunity.” James sometimes won some money but at the end the amount of money he lost was much bigger. Very often he came home without any coin in his wallet, had to dissolve his bank account and sometimes lost around £3,500 on one evening. He lent some money from others, took money out of his wife’s wallet in secret or stole donations for charity projects. From today’s view James can say that he was very close to become a criminal. “I always tried to hide it but after a while the people around me noticed that something was wrong”, says James. He decided to get some help. Not because he thought he was sick, he did it for the sake of his family. But because he didn’t take it for serious he got relapses and found himself in hopeless situations all the time. He lost his company, the trust of his relatives, had to survive a marital crisis and barely spent time with his children. “Something very serious has to happen. There must be so much pressure on you that you notice you’re a gambling addict. Every single situation required so much energy and technically I knew that what I was doing was wrong. The relationship to my wife suffered as well. I had to decide: Either keep playing or being all on your own.” As a result, James moved to another city, started to do an ambulant therapy and searched for a support group. Not only support groups provide information, also Aquarius is a place in the West Midlands to go to when someone has gambling problems. They offer support for the person and the family as well as one to one or group sessions.

 Once a gambler – always a gambler”

His group helped James to go back to normal as much as it was possible. The weekly meetings were an important component in his life – until now. James Smith didn’t go to any casino or gambling hall for seven years already. But he can’t guarantee anything. “Once a gambler – always a gambler. It just depends on how well you can cope with your addiction, if you can control it or let it win.”

Today James Smith can say that he managed to control his addiction at the right time and was then able to live a happy life with his family and a new job. He’s grateful: “The gambling addict really believes that he wins the jackpot one day. But in real life you won’t ever get the jackpot. If you’re hoping for the big jackpot, then you’re not living your life.”

Sheva Hosseini-Khorassani

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