In 2014, following their devastating experiences with problematic gambling, Lee, Anne and Keith founded The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM).
In this video we find out more about the impact gambling has had on their lives and why they are so passionate about safeguarding young and vulnerable people.
More about Lee
Lee has worked predominantly in the third and education sectors for over 25 years, progressing from a front-line youth worker and teacher to holding senior level Director and Chief Executive positions.
In late 2012 he developed a short, but devastating gambling addiction, which turned his life upside down. Lee became addicted to gambling on video gaming machines (categorised as B1 machines by the UK Gambling Commission).
Lee gambled away significant amounts of money, spending a lifetime’s worth of savings, took on huge debt (via bank & payday loans) and even stole money to feed his gambling addiction when he could no longer get money legally. The need to gamble for Lee was overpowering and he could not stop, despite the damage he knew he was causing.
Lee says, “I would be gambling six maybe seven days a week, sometimes before work, sometimes after work and on most weekends. My behaviour was completely irrational and when I did try to stop, I would get huge mood swings, heart palpitations and even cold sweats.”
It got so bad that the only way out he could see was to commit suicide and had planned to do so. Fortunately for Lee, a phone call from his family came at the right time and he told his parents & loved ones what he had done; he reached out for help, filed for bankruptcy and informed the police of the crime he had committed. Treatment for Lee was provided by the NHS National Problem Gambling Clinic and he also used the telephone support services of GamCare. The combination of this treatment and help, plus support from his parents and partner is the only reason why Lee is still here today.
He says, “My gambling addiction had taken me from being at the top of my game to being inside a prison cell. I am heartbroken by what I did and all the people I let down. It is precisely those feelings that drove me to plan my suicide; feelings that will stay with me forever.
I received a suspended prison sentence for the crime I committed to fuel my addiction and I am utterly ashamed of the person I became. The help provided by the NHS National Problem Gambling Clinic and GamCare were instrumental in my path to recovery and their help changed my life. As a person, I have changed enormously and would rather use the experience from the past few years in a positive way, going forward. Charities are often founded by people whom have had life-changing experiences, YGAM is no exception.
The fact is that preventative education around gambling-related harm is virtually non-existent, especially for young people and especially when compared with the amount of information available for other risky activities, including sexual health and drinking alcohol. Gambling is legalised in the UK and so, like alcohol or safe sex education for example, young people need to know about the potential risks and how to stay safe, so they can make informed choices.
I have huge empathy with all people suffering from this addiction and would encourage anybody who is worried about their gambling, or the gambling of a friend or partner to reach out for help. There absolutely is life after a gambling addiction, but it does not come easily. If the work of YGAM can encourage more young people to find out further information, or if they feel they or their friends are experiencing harm, they may come forward for help sooner and less damage will be done to those who are affected.
I am delighted and incredibly proud to be working with the education, gambling and health sectors to move the work of YGAM forward. We need to shine a light on gambling addictions, create awareness, remove the stigma and minimise harm. I believe the most effective way we can do this is through working with like-minded partners and our YGAM supporters to deliver a quality-assured & accredited programme that schools and other educational organisations see the value in. In addition, I believe programmes need to be delivered as part of a PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) programme and not as a standalone subject.”