Gambling in Newham: Case study of man who has been left homeless
- Credit: Archant
Compulsive gambling has led Rob, not his real name, to become penniless and homeless.
The 51-year-old, who has been sleeping rough in the Stratford centre for the past two months, gambled away his wages causing him to lose his rented flat.
He says he got caught up in a gambling cycle, fuelled by drink and depression.
“You get the money and you start playing and it’s like you have a different life. You feel every single emotion,” he explained. “You have this big expectation and if you win you are happy but if you lose it spurs you on. There’s so much adrenaline. It’s not about winning money, it’s about those feelings. When you have your pockets full of money, you’re not going home to buy something, you just want those feelings again.”
Rob, who is receiving counselling from the Drugs and Alcohol Service in Stratford, began to gamble about eight years ago after accompanying his demolition site colleagues to William Hill every Friday after they got paid. “We would get a couple of beers and always a couple of my friends would have a bet in these shops,” he recalled. “I wouldn’t get involved. I would just be watching and then, from time to time, I would bet a couple of quid, just for fun, usually on the roulette or fruit machines – but it would never get to my last penny.”
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It was only when he started a live-in job on a building site in Hertfordshire that his gambling became a problem. “There were two betting shops nearby, a Coral and a Ladbrokes,” he remembered. “With the first wages that I got, I visited one of them. The problem was that it was quite different to in Newham. There were no locals playing, it was more about the horses, the dogs and the football, so there were these virgin machines.”
Within 20 minutes he had won £600, before crossing the street and winning £600 at the other shop.
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The next day he went to London to pay the rent for his flat. When he arrived at Manor Park, with his pockets full of last night’s winnings, he decided to try his luck at his regular haunts and, after winning about £2,000 on a betting spree, he challenged himself to go into every betting shop on the way to meet his landlord.
Although he estimates that he won £3,000 in total, by the time he reached the flat it was all gone.
The next week, the same thing happened. And the next week. And the next – until he lost his flat. “You are losing your money and that is painful but that is made worse because I let down my landlord,” Rob said. “I also borrowed £50 from a very nice lady and I can’t give it back. I can’t pick up the phone – I’m just hiding.
“I can’t believe that it has come to this and I could do this to myself, to lose all my money.”
He thinks a rise in people drinking at home means that people drink more, making them more likely to gamble voraciously. “It is very popular now that when you have some money you put a tenner in the machine, but that tenner is very dangerous because where it goes, the rest follows,” Rob admitted.
Despite his situation, he says that if he had any cash he would find it very hard to resist visiting a bookies.
“If I had some money now I probably would go to the shop which is very stupid in my situation,” he said. “I am trying to find a way out but I know it’s not so easy and it’s early days.
“There are a lot of problems and one of those is that it is an addiction, which sometimes people don’t realise. I have been given a lot of advice and I’m just trying to follow it.”that.”