Most people think of alcohol and drugs when they hear the word ‘addiction’, but these days there is a growing number of individuals in the UK affected by gambling addiction. The NHS estimates that there are around 593,000 people in the UK with a gambling problem, and this number is growing all the time.
Easy access to online gaming sites has made gambling the ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’ addiction. Those who are affected can gamble at any time of the day, provided they can access the internet and the funds available to gamble with.
A gambling addiction is a destructive illness that affects many more people than just the person affected. What might start out as a harmless game of online bingo can develop into a compulsion to bet for the anticipation and thrill that gambling creates.
One of the largest issues that problem gamblers have is getting their hands on the money they need to bet. Most will start out small but as their addiction takes hold, they will gamble higher amounts and more often to satisfy their cravings. This can inevitably lead to financial hardship, with many individuals spending every available penny they have on the habit.
Many problem gamblers begin to rack up huge amounts of debt as they borrow through loans and credit cards. Some will then turn to family members and friends when they run out of money. They will usually lie about what they need the money for, often struggling to pay it back. Many promise themselves that they will pay it all back once they get that ‘big win’. Tragically, the big win never comes for the vast majority of gamblers. And those that do win big often gamble it all away again because they are convinced they are going to win more and more. It is a vicious cycle that goes on and on until the person eventually seeks help for the issue.
A gambling addiction can often spiral out of control and the person affected will make poor decisions that will have a devastating effect on many others. Take Caroline Dumont as an example; the bookmaker worked for three different companies, but her serious addiction to gambling led to her stealing almost £1 million, resulting in one of the companies going into liquidation.
At the height of her addiction, Dumont was spending between £2,000 and £3,000 each day on gambling, and she was stealing the money from her employers to fund her habit. During her nine years at one company, she took over £713,000. The £190,000 that she took from another company led to that company folding because of ‘excessive financial costs’.
The director of one questioned the financial position of the company, and while Dumont was on holiday in November 2014, her work was audited. During the audit, the fraud came to light, and she was dismissed immediately. Her other employers were advised to check their accounts and soon discovered that Dumont had been stealing from them too.
She pleaded guilty and has now been jailed for three years and five months.
Addiction is an illness that affects the way the brain works. It leads to uncontrollable urges and compulsions and those affected often make poor decisions. Caroline Dumont continued to take money from her employers despite the fact that she probably knew she would ultimately be caught. She is now behind bars, but her actions have had an enormous impact on many others. One of the company directors she worked for had been planning to use the money she stole as his retirement fund but has now had to change his plans. According to DC Craig Malthouse, “She badly betrayed those who viewed her as both a competent colleague and friend, and her addiction to gambling is no excuse for the vast amount of money she stole.”