I’ve had an issue on and off for 20+ years and been Gamble Free for so much longer than I have gambled. But every 3 or 4 years it seems I have a self-harm session and take myself down. So all of my arguments are regarding self-exclusion as I feel the operators have a duty of care. As I was a bad roulette player they’d always let me do whatever ever I wanted, knowing I’d eventually end up losing everything. It’s obviously by the way I play. Looking back it’s insanity. But as I’ve been stating for the last 3 years, it’s actually quite easy to detect duplicate fields and deny new applications online? They know this, but purposefully don’t put these blocks in place as it would deny them of revenue.
By the way I’ve written to the Gambling Commission many times. They asked me to submit all of my cases, which took me 3 weeks just to compile… and they replied with 2 lines stating they don’t represent individual cases! I was baffled by that response. The GC Directors even recently had a copy of this post submitted on my behalf by GamblingIndustry.co.uk but other than a polite acknowledgement I have yet to hear of any further action.
2014 – £110,000 Deposited
I relapsed back in November 2014 after nearly 4 years off, following an 8 month course in the Priory in 2011. Still find it hard to understand why it happened. I went on a hazy roller coaster of grief for the next 12-24 months or so. But I always email or call and ask for Self-Exclusion for life when I have a moment of ‘clarity’.
I re-joined William Hill on 14th Nov 2014. They didn’t mention my previous self-exclusion on many other accounts. I’d written to them back in 2004 and 2007 telling them of a “crippling gambling addiction“. I deposited £110,000k over the next 10 days (£78k in one day) and lost £21,000 of that. As an addict you get these moments of clarity and a voice telling you that you need to stop. In those moments I do all I can to put blocks in place, knowing the next day will be a different voice telling me to win my money back.
William Hill Refused to Acknowledge My Self Exclusion
So I called WH and said I’ve lost £21,000 in the last 10 days and I should have been self-excluded as I’ve told them many times of an addiction.
After a 3 or 4 days of arguing they said it’s because I hadn’t scanned a self-exclusion form and sent it back by post (didn’t actually have a scanner back then). I argued that most operators will add customers automatically if they hear of a gambling problem. After nearly a week of arguing about this Self Exclusion form (all the time highlighting my gambling addiction) I felt they were putting in an unnecessary barrier in place to deter losing customers.
They refused to acknowledge my self-exclusion even when I was telling them of a severe addiction.
With that, I said: “Fine, open my account again” (then maybe you’ll understand that your mind can be different from one hour to the next with gambling)
I’ve been on Stephen Nolan’s Radio 5 live to argue about this. William Hill said they kept asking me to self-exclude but I refused and they made it out that I was being irresponsible! This was complete rubbish as I was literally begging them to self-exclude me. And they could see from my spending patterns that I was addicted & not gambling responsibly.
After losing the £12,000 I once again contacted them and asked them why they were letting me do this. I received a call from them and after a 30 minute conversation, the lady said they were making a business decision to self-exclude my account. WHAT???? I said that’s all I wanted to happen from the beginning. A year or so later, I joined again as their Know Your Customer Policy (KYC) seemed to be non-existent and I lost £9,200 within few hours.
William Hill blamed me for using different details and then told I wasn’t self-excluded anyway, my account was shut as a “business decision.” They are a ruthless company and no wonder they’ve been fined recently. All in all, they’ve taken £43,000 from a customer who repeatedly tells them of a crippling addiction and they simply don’t care.
3 YEARS OF COMPLAINTS
I’ve had an exhausting 3 years complaint with WH, so many letters to the CEO. When I lost the £9,200 I emailed the CEO and said he needs to understand the destruction his company can cause to addicts and pushes them to think suicidal thoughts. With that they simply forwarded that to my local police station ( more out of protocol than concern), the Police came banging on my door. I wasn’t in, and they told all my neighbours a gambling company said they received a suicide note. This rumour went around my whole town and caused me so much grief and made things a whole lot worse. They are a vile company that I’ve been complaining about for 3 years. All through this time they’ve responded saying they take responsible gambling very seriously, but the recent news contradicts that.
Similar Experiences with 8 Other Operators
I have ongoing complaints with over 8 other operators. All of them for failing to protect a player who has self-excluded.
It’s worth noting that at no time have I ever tried to withdraw any money as it seems I just gamble to hurt myself. In my worst moments, I’d try to abstain on my own but then fall back in a few weeks later, join a new site, hate myself for doing it, then lose whatever I could. These operators are happy to take the money. This would all happen jn a few hours then I’d sell exclude again. I know it sounds insane but that was kind of my routine.
#Coral – I was self-excluded at Coral as I sent them many emails over the past 10 years. I tried to open another site in August 2015. They sent me an email telling me they’d detected another account with all of my details. I thought good, responsible gambling is being practiced. But they went on to say they’d closed that account so I could continue with my new details. I lost £7,000 in 2 hours and then self-excluded again They still refuse to take any responsibility for this. The GC know about this one. How is that protecting a vulnerable customer?
#Mr Green – lost £10,000 in 56 minutes. I was already self-excluded. After 3 years of writing to them. They had the audacity to write to me recently and offer me a €2,000 refund for “pointing them in the right direction”. This is from a company who have won CSR awards. This is ongoing.
#Stan James and Unibet baffle me. They’ve been the same company for years but refuse to acknowledge this. I’ve self-excluded many times from both of them on many different accounts. But I lost £10,000 with Stan James when they lifted my self-exclusion in 10 minutes of asking. This doesn’t follow the GC’s license codes and conditions. 24 hours cooling off, can’t re-open online. They don’t seem to care about that. 32 Red ( these are all part of the Kindred Group) told me that even though I self-excluded I told them it was because I said the games weren’t good. I said but I still self-excluded and you opened my account again. Work that one out.
#Boylesports – multiple accounts, all self-excluded. The last account I need to send over all my ID prior to betting. It still wasn’t detected and went to lose lots of money. They just fob me off and say the case is now with the authorities, whatever that means,
#Betfred/Tote keep blaming me for using different details. But 4 out of the 5 fields were similar. I have 5 or 6 different accounts that are all self-excluded. And there’s a £1000 transaction on my bank account and they refuse to tell which account this has come from. Because the know this means this account was created with all the same details.
I had saved a lot of money but now I have a lot of debt.
Let me know if you’d like other examples as I have other similar. It’s crazy what I was doing I know, but I was always telling these companies to self-exclude me as I was a danger to myself.
Bet365 Did the Right Thing
In fairness I have to say I’ve never been able to spend any money with Bet365 as their systems are sophisticated? They genuinely practice responsible gambling. Once I called them in the height of my addiction to re-open my account, but they actually played me a phone call that I’d had with them 10 years earlier stating my addiction. I never filled out a form with them. But they turned away my money knowing it was the right thing to do.
Why just them?
It’s also worth noting that I have received refunds from Virgin and Sportingbet (GVC). I’ve obviously had to sign disclaimers to get this money. These two weren’t the worst culprits, it seems the bigger UK companies think they’re too big and refuse to take any blame.
Why are some refunding and others not?
Gambling Operators Even Employ Psychologists
I have a LOT of knowledge of how the Operators work through my work. I’m not anti-gambling, but I’m motivated to change the mindset of the sector and prevent any harm it will cause to the younger generation. I hope this doesn’t come across as angry, I’m not. I can relate to the power of a gambling addiction, but also understand when an Operator is knowingly exploiting addicts to generate more revenue. I’m trying to be as positive as I can but I think we’ve reached a point where taking money from known addicts is the “done thing”.
Sometimes I’ll sit down with people in the sector who don’t know my personal experience, and be amazed at their attitude? It’s ruthless.
I’ve also spoken to many developers of the casino games in FOBT’s and online, I know the lengths they go to ensure the games are as addictive as possible. Even to the point where they commission psychologists to tell them what colours, noises and buttons to use.
It doesn’t matter about the money. Sometimes players will get addicted to the game, so when they have no limits on the amounts of money people can lose, it will inevitably destroy them financially.
An addict is unable to “Stop when the Fun Stops.”
Gamblers try to Circumvent the System in order to Feed their Addiction
It’s worth highlighting to the Gambling Commission the power of a gambling addiction. I sometimes would change my details to gamble (not proud to say that). But how can I generate an account with false details and still deposit money from my same card? Failing at some pretty basic levels.
But they have to understand why I did this. Part of me hoped that my account wouldn’t be accepted as I just needed to get my fix, to spin the wheel. It’s very complicated as you know. So if I did manage to gamble I still hoped that the money I’d be losing wouldn’t be real.
The one point they fail to grasp is I know I can’t win, and know that any winnings wouldn’t be paid as they only verify on withdrawal. But I still do it and that is the uncontrollable power of an addiction. As WH would never ask for ID prior to betting, it’s all on their terms and they mitigate any risk.
It’s very wrong in my eyes.
The Gambling Commission will have many emails from me as I was bounced around from person to person for 3 years. They’ll have completely the wrong idea of my experiences and me as a person. But instead of me thinking I was the only one who did this, now, after hearing many similar stories it’s not that uncommon to “lose the plot”. But it’s so easy for gambling licencees to forget about revenues and minimise harm. They need to take a more ethical stance.
I’ve had intense therapy for the last 9 months. CBT, Hypnotherapy and EMDR (all at my own cost) and GA. The GC needs to understand the lengths I go to try and beat this but it’s not easy. I have started on the NHS course, but I’ve been allocated a trainee so I’m not getting much from these sessions (obviously not her fault). I personally feel confident but can’t just sit back and let others experience the same. Especially when gambling is literally everywhere I look. It’s very hard to be in recovery in this day and age. A constant battle.
I’ve also been trying to use my experiences to highlight the destruction gambling can cause. I’ve been talking to GambleAware, EPIC, Gamban, and I’ve been into Westminster twice to meet MP’s such as Carolyn Harris. I’ve also appeared on a few radio stations like Stephen Nolan’s Radio 5.
I’m more than happy to keep working on this with you Mike. Even happy to come along to the GC with you. Happy to have a call too.
Well done for doing this. Lots of works to do, but if it prevents a kid from going through our mental torture it’ll be a job worth doing.