Reformed gambler Jason Haddigan tackles some of the questions he is most frequently asked by others who want to quit their destructive gambling habit.
Question 1: I want to stop, it is ruining my life but I can't. What's the first step? Answer: First step is to self-exclude yourself from all bookies (but see also Q.4) and online gambling sites for the maximum time they offer, and install 'Gamban' on your mobile, tablet, etc. Gamban costs one pound a month, and it will not let you download any gambling sites to your device.
Question 2: How can I avoid the constant reminders in the High Street on TV and online? Answer: Be in control of the other/conscious/Devil voice. Keep telling it to clear off every time it asks you to gamble. It eventually gets fed up and will leave you alone.
Question 3: Why do the bookies and those other people who install fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) always win at the end of the day - and can I beat them? Answer: The bookies and FOBTs always win because the odds are stacked heavily against you. If there is a ten runner race and you pick one horse, that leaves the bookie with the other nine. With FOBTs, the green zero gives the house a massive odds advantage.
Question 4: Can I bar myself from the bookies on the High Street? Does it work? Answer: You can self-exclude from bookies, but it has been proven that unless you are prepared to ignore the Devil in your head it doesn't work. You either wear a disguise and go back into the shop, or simply go to another betting shop to gamble. Don't.
Question 5: My family despair of me, what can I do? Answer: Come clean to your family. Be honest and open with them. Assure them you are going to take steps to stop. One day you will come to see that they are the last people you should cheat and lie to.
Question 6: I'm up to my ears in debt but I always seem to find money for gambling. How is this? Answer: All compulsive/problem gamblers cheat, deceive, and even steal to get money for their gambling fix.
Question 7: I can't quit when winning or losing - Can you help with this? Answer: A compulsive/problem gambler will not stop when winning because he or she believes they are on a never-ending winning streak. They don't stop when they are losing because they chase their losses until they are broke. Both lose in the end.
Question 8: I met a chap in the pub who says he has a fail-safe system of winning, I think he said by narrowing the odds, is there such a thing? Answer: There is no fail-safe system unless you cheat. For example, like me, you could actually fill in forged winners AFTER the races have finished (but, like me, you'll end up in jail). There is a system for winning at blackjack. It's called 'counting cards' but you have to have a special mind/memory to do this and one chap recently lost millions in the courts because although it is not strictly illegal it is still classed as cheating! Plus the casino pit bosses are on to this in this day and age. I've heard say the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo was a spindle-maker who spotted a warp on the roulette wheel - but this is just the sort of daft tale gamblers live by.
Question 9: I'm quite normal when I'm not gambling - then it takes over, what can I do? Whilst I'm trying to stop how do I fill the void? Answer: I'm sure there is a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in most gamblers, and they can be deceptively charming to get their own way or to con you into lending them a few quid - but see my answer to Question 2. Tell the Devil in your head to shove off. I'm filling the void by simply helping others on Twitter/Facebook. That's all I want to do now. I just don't want people taking the road I took. Oh, and I wrote a book find a new hobby or interest for those spare moments when you might be tempted.
Question 10: I've told so many lies it preys on my mind. How do I get out of this deceit and worry? Answer: You must come clean to family and loved ones, you might want to tell your doctor too. The best advice I can give to any problem/compulsive gambler is to learn to recognise the Devil voice I have already mentioned (or whatever you choose to call it). You can be sure it does eventually leave you alone. It might take a month/three months/six months. We are all different, so need to adjust to the times. But I can guarantee you, the voice vanishes, and you will be able to live a non-gamble healthy life. I did. A day at a time, a week at a time ...
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Jason Haddigan was a winner and loser of sometimes breath-taking amounts, he eventually 'lost everything' and ended up in prison, banned from most betting shops nationwide. He now advises politicians, professionals and reformers as well as encouraging youngsters to steer clear of temptation. Jason is currently involved in the campaign to restrict the scope of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). He is the author of How and Why I Conned the Bookies: Lessons from a Loser for Gamblers the World Over.