A recovered online gambling addict who has used up to seven credit cards and five loans to fund his habit, has spoken out following new industry regulations.
Stephen Bass, 36, turned to crippling payday loans from Wonga and Satsuma before having to file for bankruptcy with Â£ 36,000 in debt.
The father-of-one told Metro.co.uk that the way gambling companies attract punters to their sites and keep their money encouraging them to keep betting is “disgusting” and brings “people to commit suicide “.
His comments come after the The Gambling Commission has announced that it will ban all betting companies to accept credit cards from April of this year, to protect against “harmful gambling”.
Although Stephen welcomed the move, he said it did not go far enough and called on the government to regulate other parts of the industry, such as advertising.
He also condemned seemingly harmless roulette games, which don’t offer money but are the stepping stone to betting sites after players find out they have a knack for winning.
Stephen, from Bedford, said: âThey really have to cut the ads. I try to hide them on Facebook and more will appear. It’s everywhere.
âI can’t believe how legal this is. There should be a turning point in gambling ads. Everything is temptation.
âThese places don’t care if you have an addiction. People kill themselves because of it and turn to other things, like crime.
âIt’s disgusting because it’s all about making money. [Gambling companies] wouldn’t be anywhere without people like me.
Stephen struggled with alcoholism throughout his 20s, but it wasn’t until he couldn’t hold his newborn daughter in 2014 that he realized he had a problem.
He went to rehab and stayed sober for four years, but halfway through that time he placed his first bet, which would escalate into two years of debt and addiction.
In 2016, he came across a “fake article” promoting a gift of money on a woman who had made a fortune, telling the reader that he too could if he clicked on a link directing them to a gambling website.
After clicking on that link, then carpet installer Stephen said within days he had “easily” spent Â£ 700 intended for a tax refund.
“But it’s nothing compared to what I did,” he added. âI thought I was going to try because I didn’t think it would be a problem. I thought I could stop.
He quickly switched to online roulette and used his credit card to place Â£ 300 on a football bet.
“I went up to the toilet and by the time I came back down I had made Â£ 1,400,” he added. “The worst thing that ever happened to me was making this money.”
But he played it all, because the sum remains pending in the account for two days and bettors can no longer deposit until the payment has been authorized by the bank.
The father said he “had another Groundhog Day” spending, winning and playing, which meant he never saw the money.
He tried to quit for a while but became addicted to online slots, which he found even easier.
Soon after, Stephen turned to exorbitant payday loans, asking for cash advances at work and borrowing from his family to make ends meet and keep gambling.
âEven then, I didn’t think it was a problem because I didn’t associate it with drinking alcohol, but it’s cross-dependency,â he added.
âAt the end of the two-year period, I had seven credit cards and about five loans.
“The credit debt probably doesn’t even eclipse the amount of wages I spent on it, it’s around Â£ 100,000.”
The father said everything came to a head when he went on vacation to Mallorca in 2018, when he had severe anxiety on the plane and had a drink at the all-inclusive hotel.
âBut in three days, I wanted to jump off a balcony because I couldn’t stop drinking,â he added.
âIt was all to do with the money, the game – that was it. I was afraid. It made me feel like I was going crazy.
He called his crisis-stricken father, who signed him up at the Liberty House Clinic in Luton to start rehab again.
Stephen said, âYou can do it all in five minutes with gambling that you could do in a weekend with alcohol.
“From the excitement of getting money to the feeling of having it, to the fear afterwards – you feel it all in five minutes.”
After spending a month in rehab he cut ties with his job and filed for bankruptcy with around Â£ 26,000 of the total due to credit and interest.
âOnce I did, it was a relief,â he added.
Stephen wanted to start helping other addicts and started volunteering for Liberty House last November.
Since his rehab, he hasn’t placed another bet, adding that he has âno shameâ about his story and is grateful that he can help others in the same situation.
UKAT drug treatment company chief executive Eytan Alexander said the decision to ban credit cards would help a lot, but like Stephen, he thinks it’s not enough.
He said, âThis is something I wish I had been in place when I first started playing because it would have kept me from playing with ‘toy’ credit card money.
“However, what we want to see are steps taken to target VIP programs that reward players with celebrity lifestyle benefits for their high and regular bets.”
âThe VIP label makes these players look cool, elusive and respected. This could cause younger and more vulnerable players to gamble to excess in order to achieve VIP status.
“We encourage the Gambling Commission to take a hard line on this.”
For help and support regarding gambling addiction, visit Ukat.