Former gambling addict who has 'been to hell and back' speaks out following Leeds report

A FORMER gambling addict has spoken out following a report that 30,000 people in Leeds are at risk of harm from gambling.

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 07:00 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 09:09 am

Chris Murphy, 32, from Leeds, says he ‘has been to hell and back’ even attempting suicide at his lowest point - but fortunately he survived and has since worked for nine years to beat the addiction.

A new report has revealed that many thousands are at risk from gambling in Leeds and the sports journalist today condemned the highly dangerous addiction and called for more support for people suffering.

He said: “Gambling addiction should be treated as a health issue. If recovery is only based on physically preventing gambling, it’s just papering over the cracks.”

Former gambling addict Chris Murphy

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Chris welcomed the opening of the Leeds Gambling Clinic last month in Leeds: “The new NHS service is important because it will help people at point of crisis when they need it. It will also start to bring it in line with things like drugs and alcohol.

"I have spent a lot of time with people who struggle as they fight their addiction. I am concerned to hear the figures that there are 30,000 at risk. It depends how they deem 'at risk' as everyone is different in how they deal with addiction.

"How to define an addict is difficult. People don't always realise that they can be at risk, be it through drink, drugs, gambling or even work."

The report, published by Leeds City Council, estimated that the city already had around 10,000 problem gamblers, and that young people, those on low incomes and adults with mental health issues could be most at risk.

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images

Despite being thrown out of college due to missing lessons through gambling, Chris got a job and lots more disposable cash. “I became obsessed with money. My life was getting paid on a Thursday, then going out drinking and gambling Friday, Saturday and Sunday, being skint on a Monday and then doing all again the next week.”

On his 18th birthday he got a bank loan and was gambling every day. Chris thought it was working as he always had access to cash, not considering the debt he was racking up.

When he was 19, his mum realised that he was in difficulties. She drove him to a gambling support group a few times but when she stopped taking him, he pretended to go, but instead went gambling.

Former gambling addict Chris Murphy

At 23 he decided to try and win enough to pay off everything he owed. Incredibly he succeeded but he couldn’t walk away from the addiction. During the 20 minute wait for the bus home Chris decided to place another bet – and lost everything.

“I said to myself – I’m going to win everything back with the little money I’ve got, or I’m going to kill myself.”

Chris attempted suicide but fortunately he didn’t succeed. He went home to his parents and he returned to the gambling support group. For 18 months he didn’t gamble at all, he went to university, got into a new relationship and his mum and girlfriend handled all his finances.

Roulette wheel. Photo credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

His recovery became a repeated cycle of months of abstinence interrupted by relapses, which where damaging financially, emotionally and mentally to Chris and the people around him. “My relapses were very short lived, but very damaging.”

Chris now feels that he now has the chance to give back by making his negative experiences a force for good and help strengthen his own recovery, while carrying the message to people still struggling.

If you need help with gambling problems contact the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133 or visit www.gamcare.org.uk Other services can be found at www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/gambling-addictionWhat the gambling report said

The report was published following the opening of the Leeds Gambling Clinic last month – a new support service for people suffering from problem gambling in the city. The service is a collaboration between charity GamCare, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT) and Leeds City Council.

It states: “Problem gambling is gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits. “At risk” generally refers to people who are experiencing some difficulties with their gambling behaviour but are not considered to be problem gamblers.

“The research estimated that there are approximately 10,000 problem gamblers in Leeds (1.8 per cent of the adult population) and a further 30,000 people (5/6 per cent of adult

population) who may be at risk of harm from gambling.

The report added that it was difficult to accurately identify problem gamblers due to low levels of self-reporting and “what some regarded as avoidance or shame about the causes of gambling related harms.”

It continued: “Gambling opportunities in Leeds are widespread, mixing gambling, gaming and social and leisure activities in diverse and widely distributed premises.”