A RECOVERING gambling addict has spoken candidly about his battle with the punt and warned “the illness does not discriminate”.
Jack, 70, who did not wish to use his real name, was lured into the world of gambling as a child.
During his harrowing years in the grip of addiction, he lost tens of thousands of dollars and almost lost his family.
The Tamworth man shared his story as part of Gambling Awareness Week, which runs until Saturday.
“Growing up in North Tamworth, my neighbours were mad racing people and they’d have the wireless playing on their porch all day,” Jack said.
“I started going to the races with them at 12 or 13 and it just grew from there.
“When I turned 18 I got involved in the pokies and before I knew it I was hooked.”
Suddenly, Jack was pouring his weekly pay packet into gambling and even betting on credit with bookies.
“You just keep digging a deeper hole – I lost money I couldn’t pay back,” he said.
“My wife left me a couple of times and you just lose respect for yourself because you can’t stop.”
Jack ultimately found salvation with Gamblers Anonymous but admits his addiction is still a day-to-day proposition.
“I haven’t gambled in 18 years, but if I had a bet tomorrow I’d just keep betting,” he said.
“I get up each morning and say, ‘I’m not going to gamble today’.”
His support group, which meets at 7.30pm each Monday at Tamworth’s Community Health, includes all walks of life.
According to Centacare New England gambling help service manager Tim Rawson, that’s because gambling addiction does not discriminate.
“Up to 2 per cent of Australians experience problem gambling and it can affect anyone at any age,” Mr Rawson said.
“It can create social isolation, job loss, criminal activity, relationship breakdowns, depression and anxiety.”