How sports gambling cost me
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Natha Hindmarsh looks unhappy during the round 4 NRL match. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox
I’ve wanted to voice my opinion and experience on sports gambling for years. I’ve written drafts, deleted them, re-written them, only to again delete it all.
But in light of last month’s stunning admission from NRL workhorse Nathan Hindmarsh that he battled a six-year addiction with pokies, gambling has again hit the spotlight.
Not for long of course, as soon it will be pushed right back down into oblivion where no one addresses it, until the next athlete’s confession.
Here I would like to share some of the pain it has caused me.
I personally have spent the darkest of hours with a sports gambling addict. Without delving into too much personal detail out of respect to this person, I can however say that for over four years I battled weekly with a live in boyfriend’s gambling addiction.
In the end we both lost.
Sports multis, first try scorers, overs, 13+ start – all this talk was so foreign to me five years ago. I didn’t even know you could bet on sport.
It wasnt until one night in bed after a few weeks of living together with my partner that I started to have any indication there could be trouble in paradise. As we lay in bed, he sat up next to me, eyes fixed on the laptop.
“What are you doing on that so late?” I mumbled.
“Oh just watching a tennis bet,” he replied. 3am rolled around and he was still up, eyes glued to that screen watching live tennis scores like a heroin addict waiting for his next delivery.
A week later he was paid his first match fee for his football club where he had just recently been signed, a nice sum of $7000. It was gone three days later, all thanks to the vortex that I like to call the TAB.
It was about then that the warning signs had well and truly sunk in – I was in love and living with a gambling addict.
And so it went on. The happy beautiful man I fell in love with, so full of life every Friday night before NRL and Super Rugby kick off, would soon disappear before my eyes as Slater would go in for a double, stuffing up his last leg on Storm to win by 12. He became a depressed, grumpy inattentive downer come Sunday arvo (that is if his multi got him that far).
Don’t get me wrong – I am a hell of a strong woman, and tough love did wonders for a while. I left several times, only for the love and belief that we together could beat this demon habit.
The thing about gambling, or any addiction, is that to seek help first and foremost they must admit a problem. This is no easy feat.
It all really came to reality when we went to our first Gambling Anonymous meeting, me in tow as support.
I sat at the back of the room and observed the 20 or so grown men in front of me – suits, fathers, pensioners and husbands, all from different walks of life, yet all victims of ”chasing the next big win”.
I watched as my best friend and love of my life looked down at the floor careful to avoid eye contact with anyone due to his embarrassment.
I watched on, my heart breaking as I saw him break in to sweats, his eyes watering at the realisation of how deep his problem had now gotten.
Ten years prior as a 16-year old kid he was led into the TAB by fellow teammates, unbeknownst to him at the time that one bet would cost him his football career, friendships and his first love.
All because training had been cancelled due to a thunder-storm.
Now back to Nathan Hindmarsh’s admission, reading an extract from his autobiography Old School, which is to be released next week, the sentence that stood out for me most was the following. It’s one I have heard time and time again from numerous athletes:
“I was bored rather than lonely, bored with too much free time and nothing to fill it with. I didn’t have anything to go home to, I had no domestic responsibilities or people to take care of.”
Which begs me to ask the question, do young athletes get educated on gambling? We were all made aware last season of Eel’s halfback Chris Sandow and his gambling problem.
A few seasons earlier back in 2007 former Sharks and Bulldogs player Michael Sullivan admitted to losing almost $500,000 on the punt.
When these stories would be on the news I’d be so happy. “Yes” I would say to myself.
Someone is talking about it! This problem needs a voice, if it’s out in the open then maybe more people will seek help.
But the story would go away as quickly as it surfaced. Everyday we are bombarded with betting odds through every sport we watch – do you know how hard that is for a gambler trying to get clean?
Again and again, the advertising is reeling punters in with the promise of a win.
Jaime Rogers on the TAB ads? Can’t stand her. Luxebet’s Neil Evans? Punish. And Greg Munsie? Just go away.
I could literally go on and on. But who really cares? Out of curiosity I did once put $20 on then Warriors backrower Sonny Fai as a last try-scorer.
He scored in the 78th minute. $780 later I thought, “I can see how people can get carried away”.
I never bet again, and never will. I have nothing against social betting.
It’s just the whole betting while ruining your life that I can’t stand.
There are not enough words for me to express my opinion on the matter. 1000 words into this post and I feel I have only scraped the surface.
I just want to wish anyone luck who is trying to beat it, and I have immense respect for anyone who has. Stay strong.
Do you have a problem and want to get help? Start by visiting http://www.problemgambling.gov.au/