By the age of 30, I’d gambled away $400,000. Here’s what I want you to know

Gus (not his real name) sees BetStop as an “essential apparatus” to fighting a gambling addiction that caused him to lose almost half a million dollars.
Over 18,000 Australians, predominantly under 40, have used the self-exclusion register to regain control of their lives since
The 33-year-old from Melbourne is among the third of users who elected to block online gambling services for the rest of their lives.
Eighteen months into his recovery, he thinks Australia is a long way from fixing an industry “out of control”.

He shared his experience with SBS News.

How did you first start gambling?

“You could argue I started gambling as a kid, maybe six or seven when my father used to watch Sky Racing and let me place bets on with him,” he said.

Gus started going to the TAB when he was 16 and predominantly gambled while watching sport or racing, with the latter providing a “quicker rush as they take place in Australia every two or three minutes”.

How often were you gambling at the height of your addiction?

Every day. The amount varied, but it wouldn’t be unusual to blow $600.”

How did gambling make you feel?

“There’s the rush of endorphins that you feel when you win a bet, but it’s as much about the pursuit. Even knowing you’re going to a TAB you get giddy and excited,” he said.
“It makes you forget about any other responsibilities in your life, as you’re zoned into that session.

“Obviously, a big part of how you feel is remorse and sadness when you’ve lost a barrel of money, but until then you’re really giddy with that serotonin pumping.”

How much did you lose?

“I inherited a quarter of a million dollars, which went to the bookies. That’s all gone, which is really sad and pretty cooked.
“A substantial amount of my wages as well.”

Over 12 years Gus says he lost over $400,000.

Did you gamble alone or with friends?

“Sometimes with friends because you kind of pick up who’s a gambler,” Gus said.
“But you start to realise that what you’re doing isn’t really socially acceptable, so a lot of the life of a gambling addict is gambling alone.

“You try to hide it, on the phone in the bathroom or alone at a pokie venue late at night.”

The government said it expected an uptake in young Australians, particularly men, signing up for the register. Credit: RgStudio/Getty Images

How many times did you try to quit?

“After big losses you know you should stop, but the addiction is such that it’s very good at pulling you back in. Your brain rationalises why it’s okay or why you might have as big a problem as you do.

“So there would’ve been hundreds of times I tried to quit that lasted a few days or a few months, but I invariably came back.”

Why did you stop for good?

“When it came to light I squandered all of that inheritance money, I started borrowing money from family and friends who rightfully couldn’t understand why I couldn’t afford things,” he said.
“So I had to let go and tell the truth. I told my brother, then my partner, then my mum and those people started pushing me towards Gamblers Anonymous and services like financial counselling.

“You seek help and create that support network. You don’t want to let those people down.”

What do you wish people knew about gambling?

“I think because it’s not a chemical addiction, like heroin, people don’t understand why you can’t stop and the extent of how damaging it is.
“By virtue of isolating yourself from loved ones it has an effect on family, friends, your self-esteem. You never have money so there are no holidays and there are missed work opportunities.

“It’s really serious and isolating, the lack of empathy around it is unfortunately why so many people want to take their own lives.

“Also the misconception that it’s easy to quit. It takes a lot of support and it shouldn’t be seen as a blemish on someone’s character but rather an illness that they’re unfortunate to have.”

Do you think the government needs to do more to tackle gambling?

“I think the way the gambling industry has normalised gambling as a part of Australian sport and as a part of even Australian friendship, that it’s a group activity, I think is sickening.
“I think it’s a vice that’s always going to exist, whether it be legal or illegal, but it needs to be much more regulated here in Australia because it’s out of control.

“I would say that there’s no room for gambling advertisements here in Australia.

“It’s absurd that something that is such a plague on our society is allowed to get so much airtime on television, particularly during live sport when a lot of children are watching.”

What is your advice for someone wanting to quit?

“Not only for yourself but for the people around you, get a support network and seek help.
“The truth will set you free. The first step is telling people. Let them help you and let them love you.”
– Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Readers seeking support for gambling concerns can contact the National Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 for free, professional and confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. More information is available at


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