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How gambling addiction has affected younger generation

·5 min read

Peter King is on vacation until July 18, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today’s guest is Doc G. (a pseudonym), a compulsive gambler and member of Gamblers Anonymous.

I’m an old-time gambler, who had an obsession for poker, sports gambling and casinos. I never made a bet on a phone or a computer. But the young gambler’s world today is digital with 24-hour access. The temptations are in their face with every game on TV or streaming services.

Here are the stories of three young GA colleagues (names changed to protect their privacy) whose lives have changed dramatically for the better because of Gamblers Anonymous:

JOE M.: ‘We’d Make Ourselves Miserable’

Joe was 13 when he started gambling with friends. In college, he became a bookie. “People would text me their bets. I kept a spreadsheet,” he said. “There were many Mondays when I would wake up and owe $1,000.”

In college, gambling took over Joe’s life. “We’d make ourselves miserable,” he recalled. “I used to gamble with my best friend until 5 a.m. and one of us owing the other thousands of dollars and being completely broke or in debt.”

Joe knew his gambling was out of control but after college figured he could easily rein it in. “I was wrong,” he said. “I graduated in 2017 and for the next year gambled on illegal sites. I told my parents in 2018 that I had quit, but I was still doing fantasy football.”

When sports gambling became legal in New Jersey, Joe would take the train there to gamble online from his phone. “I learned you just had to be present in New Jersey to gamble, not actually live there. And you got paid right away. That was everything to me,” he said. “I won sometimes as much as $40,000 or $50,000 a day.”

But he lost too. And one morning he woke up and looked himself in the mirror and said he didn’t know who he was. He was $25,000 in debt. “I finally realized I needed to change my life,” he said. His ex-girlfriend, someone who understood the severity of his gambling, took him into the Gamblers Anonymous program.

It’s working. Joe is no longer gambling and attends two or three GA meetings a week. He’s down 30 pounds and has changed his life for the better. “It’s important to look back and to remember how far I’ve come,” he said. “I was manipulating my parents, stealing, living a crazy life. By being open about what I’ve done, by keeping up my relationship with my sponsor, I’m putting myself in the position of never gambling again.”

JOHN P.: ‘No More Secrets’

Modest bets were a tradition in John’s home. He and his father wagered on Super Bowls. At 12, John started playing blackjack with friends, using half his weekly $20 allowance for gambling.

As John got older—he’s in his early 20s now—his gambling became increasingly important. The bets grew larger. He loved the action and the money he could make and the risk and the excitement. Soon, he and other kids from school were placing bets with a bookie. All online, starting with a modest $10 bet on the favorite and soon growing to higher numbers than they could afford by that time.

John would lie to his parents to get money. He sold an old computer for cash. By 17, he woke up each day focused on gambling. Despite his addiction, he went off to a good college and found students there betting $100 a game. He did that until his senior year when he opened an online casino account and played roulette, blackjack and other games. “I’d sit for hours on Zoom in class with one tablet and use another tablet for gambling,” he said.

Through the online casino account, John calculates that he bet as much as $22,000 in a month. Finally, his anxiety boiled over, and he broke down and told his parents. A psychiatrist recommended that he attend GA. He went and eventually told his parents everything. “From A to Z,” John said. “No more secrets. I was just completely honest. They were hurt. They just want their son to be okay.”

JIM G.: ‘It’s Taken The Disease To A Whole New Level’

Jim has been a Gamblers Anonymous member for three and a half years. He finds it important not to be complacent about his recovery.

“It’s a disease that tells you that you have it under control,” he said. “It really leaves people susceptible to going back. When I first came into GA, there were two or three GA members who had relapsed and had done so because they had started watching sports. At the gym, they found themselves blasted with a fantasy football show and just got pumped up.”

Jim started gambling after college. In 2016, he discovered daily fantasy and also started making bets through a bookie. Joe found himself $100,000 in debt in a span of two months. “I was just emotionally and financially destroyed,” he said.

More younger people are coming into GA these days. The rampant marketing and promotion of online betting from every corner of major sports is connected with most every major game or sport you watch.

“Today, your No. 1 accomplice when you come into a GA room is your phone,” Jim said. “You used to be forced to take action with a bookie or casino. Now it’s in your hand. You have instant access to any game, any action in the world.

“To be able to do everything remotely has taken the disease to a new level.”

Joe, John, Jim and I and GA members everywhere have acknowledged our addiction to gambling and found help in the program. For anybody who wants to stop gambling and to change their life, there’s a way.  The door to GA is always open.

Visit the Gamblers Anonymous website.

National Council On Problem Gambling help line: 1-800-522-4700

Read more in the full Football Morning in America column

How gambling addiction has affected younger generation originally appeared on NBCSports.com