Gambling addiction: Andy's story

published on 30 Apr 2014

Andy, 37, lost his home, friends and partner, due to his addiction to gambling machines. He was unable to get a job due to his addiction after he was made redundant two years ago. 

He first played on a fruit machine at the age of 17 when he won £200. He said: “One big win led me to spend thousands of pounds on gambling machines. I think over the last 20 years I have lost about £30,000 to £35,000 on the machines. I would put £10 in, then it went up to £20, and then £50. When I lost my job due to redundancy as an agency worker two years ago I lied about working night shifts.   

“I lied to my partner, to my friends, and I would gamble any money I had in the hope I could make it right again. I started lying about every aspect of my life. I couldn’t get myself into the frame of mind to be able to get a job.    

“I was just focused on chasing my losses in the hope of a big win.”    

In March last year things came to a head for Andy, after his relationship with his partner broke down due to her constantly needing to bail him out. He ended up homeless, and decided to end his life by stopping to take the insulin he needed, to treat his type one diabetes.    

He said: “My lowest point was when I split up with my partner and the only thing I could control was my insulin. I stopped taking it and the doctor said within five or six hours I would have been dead.”  

           [Statement: Government announcement on gambling]

  This attempt to take his life saw him end up at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital and he eventually found himself at The Salvation Army’s City Road Lifehouse in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  

The Salvation Army helped Andy get on to a 24-session NECA course (a charity working with people with addictions). It was recommended that he get himself banned from the betting shops as a self-exclusion measure, as well as changing walking routes to avoid areas with betting shops.   

He said: “Self-exclusion works if you’re further down the line and are committed to changing.  

“You have to take your photo into the bookies and ask them to ban you.  But it wouldn’t have helped me until I got to that point of wanting to recover because I wouldn’t have wanted anything to stop the possibility of my being able to access the machines. There are dozens and dozens of bookies in Newcastle alone, and they all have four machines in. All the time I was in the bookies you see people breaking down, shouting at the machines.”    

Andy has now moved out of the Lifehouse and into a Salvation Army flat although he still has support from the Lifehouse. He is now looking to move into independent living accommodation. 

Andy is back with his partner but accepts he can’t change the past - he won’t be able to win back the money he’s lost.

For interviews, please contact: Sophie Docker, Media Office, The Salvation Army: 0207 367 4517/0203 657 7555 or email: