He would bet on his laptop while we were in bed
In light of the latest developments coming out from the NRL regarding Ben Barba, rumours are now running rife that on top his well now well documented relationship breakdown with the mother of his children, he could also be suffering from a gambling problem.
This hits home for me because I despise sports gambling, it sickens 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 a number of years I battled with my live in boyfriend’s gambling addiction.
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 wasn’t 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 bit later he was paid his first match fee for his football club where he had just recently been signed, a handy 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 once ambitious man I fell in love with would soon disappear before my eyes. In turn, he’d become a depressed, grumpy downer come Sunday arvo (that is if his multi got him that far).
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.
Sitting at the back of the room I 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.
Here is when he began break in to sweats, his eyes watering at the realisation of how deep his problem had now gotten.
Some 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.
NRL workhorse Nathan Hindmarsh admitted his own battle with gambling. In an extract from his autobiography Old School, the sentence that stood out for me is 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 Eels halfback Chris Sandow and his gambling problem.
A few seasons earlier back in 2007 former Sharks and Bulldogs player Michael Sullivan admitted to losing big money on the punt.
But the sad stories go away as quickly as they surface. We are bombarded with odds through every sport we watch – do you know how hard that is for a gambler trying to get clean?
Curiously 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 have nothing against social betting. It’s just the whole betting while ruining your life that I can’t stand. And I hate the ads with those slick salesmen enticing us endlessly to bet.
I just want to wish anyone luck who is trying to beat it, and I have immense respect for anyone who has. Keep fighting.
Do you have a problem and want to get help? Start by visiting www.problemgambling.gov.au/
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