‘I was betting while my mom was in hospital’: Manchester gambling addicts’ harrowing confessions


“My lowest memory will always be watching a game online via a live stream while sitting with my mom while she was in the hospital,” says Danny Cheetham, a 30-year-old former game addict. years.

His mother was terminally ill with cancer, but all of Danny, from Stockport, could place bets on his phone while he was sitting next to her.

“I thought, what am I doing?” I should talk to my mom.

The death of his mother, Christine, in 2015 was the turning point that changed Danny’s life for the better. Until then, Danny’s entire daily routine revolved around gambling.

Danny, with his mom Christine Wild, who died of cancer

He would set his alarm for 4 a.m. to place his first bet and plan his route to work so he could call a bookie that opened early for commuters.

Payday was a stressful time and the days leading up to it would lead to increased stress and anxiety.

“I don’t remember a payday during my playing time when I arrived at 9 am with a dime left in my bank.”

“The worst times were walking into the office on payday. Everyone was happy, buying breakfast to celebrate. I wondered how I was going to spend the month with nothing in the bank.

“And because I didn’t want people to know it, I found myself buying my lunch at work or shopping. But it was just a cover story. I couldn’t let anyone know I had to. wrong.”

In eight years, Danny had accumulated a debt of £ 50,000.

He had started using fixed odds betting terminals at the age of 18, enjoying the excitement of chasing wins.

He played a lot of football, which he doesn’t even like.

“I’m not much of a sports fan, but I would bet on soccer games for teams across the world because they would play early in the morning when I was online,” Danny said.

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As addiction took hold of him, he quickly had to return home because he was unable to pay his rent.

At its lowest, Danny thought about suicide to escape the pressure of it all, including payday loans with sky-high interest rates.

At one point, he even wrote to the loan companies, begging them not to let him borrow money anymore, which he said received a “mixed” response.

After hitting rock bottom, Danny decided to go into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, after which he became outspoken with his family and friends in 2018, something he said “helped me stop gambling.”

“It all happened so fast, but I really have no regrets about finally taking that weight off my shoulders. “

In England, around 224,000 adults – the equivalent of 0.4% of the population – are classified as high-risk problem gamblers.

Two million, 3.6%, are classified as “at risk” for developing a serious gambling problem, and less than three percent of those affected are currently receiving treatment or support.

But now a clinic for targeted therapy – the NHS Northern Gaming Service – arrives in Greater Manchester.

It offers hope to people like Danny Cheetham and former game addict James Grimes, who says “it can only mean better results for people like me.”

James, who moved to Manchester from Norfolk, has also fallen prey to payday lenders. As costs rose, he ended up taking 20 payday loans to try and manage his £ 100,000 debt.

After recovering from an addiction, James founded The Big Step, which teaches football clubs about the dangers of gambling ads.

In 2013, James’ life was turned upside down when his father was involved in a horrific car accident. He found out he had a tumor in his pancreas and died a few weeks later.

“I was completely unable to cope with the onslaught of emotions. My father had been my best friend. Addiction was my escape, ”James said.

“I realized it was easier to lose £ 500 in a football match no matter how much debt I was already than it was to face the nightmare of grief that has eclipsed my family.”

The last straw came two years ago, on James’ 28th birthday, when he lost £ 2,000 at fixed odds betting terminals.

Realizing what he had done, James locked himself in his room for three days, and swore he couldn’t go on living like this.

When he turned his phone back on, he found he had lost his job and was bombarded with worried text messages from friends and family.

But he managed to change his life and last summer he drove 125 miles between eight different football stadiums, raising £ 4,000 for The Big Step, the charity he founded.

The Big Step is encouraging football clubs to think about their relationship with gambling. James is therefore “delighted” to support the NHS Northern Gambling Service, which aims to help thousands of people recover.

The new basis of service to Salford Quays will serve the North West of England, the North Midlands and North Wales.

They will work alongside teams from Leeds and Sunderland to provide care for people with severe addictions, as well as to support people with additional and complex mental health issues, and those who may be at greater risk, such as a risk of suicide.

At the lowest point of Kelly Field, she considered committing suicide.

The mother of a 36-year-old started using online bingo and slots as a “fun” way to escape depression, but now she realizes that it has worsened her mental health.

As she says, “I couldn’t see myself crossing the line of addiction.”

Kelly’s story inspired the ITV drama Cleaning Up, with Sheridan Smith playing a cleaner who turns to crime after racking up thousands of pounds in debt

“In the first six months I was already £ 10,000 in debt and borrowing more and more money on credit cards to keep playing,” she said.

At the height of her game, she was betting about eight hours a day.

Kelly kept her debt to her partner a secret and ‘smiled’, but over time the pressure of £ 70,000 debt and the lies pushed her to the brink.

Kelly went to her GP for help, but the counseling sessions she was initially referred to did not take place, which saw her continue to play until she got the help from the doctor. Based in Liverpool Beacon Counseling Trust.

“You are trapped in a cycle, but finding the right support has helped me break that cycle. “

She eventually shared her story with the creators of The ITV 2019 drama Cleaning Up, where the actress Sheridan smith plays an office maid who turns to crime to deal with her gambling addiction.

Explaining why she shared her story, she said, “There aren’t that many women speaking out.

“The game is considered to be bookies, men, dogs and horses. But there are probably as many female drug addicts as there are men. “

NHS consultant psychologist Matthew Gaskell, NHS Northern Gambling Service clinical manager, said: “I am delighted to open our new clinic in Manchester.

“This will help make our service more accessible to people in the North West of England, where we know thousands of people need our support.

“Gambling addiction is a new public health crisis. This is causing serious damage to thousands of people across the UK.

“This includes mental health issues, serious debt, relationship breakdown, job loss, crime, homelessness and, tragically, sometimes suicide.

“However, the chances of recovery from addictions like problem gambling can be very good with the right treatment.”

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