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Gamblers, Do Not Take the Road I Did

23 August 2017, by Jason Haddigan

A warning to gamblers

 After 18 months of emotional stress, writing my book, getting it published etc, I finally now know what it's like to have 'peace of mind'. Twenty tons of concrete have been lifted from each shoulder, my mind is now clear, and my day-to-day tasks have become so easy to manage. I'm still gamble-free, and I'm a 100% sure that will always be the case. I am never ever going back to prison again.

Two years ago, I was sitting at a roulette table in Las Vegas, watching a ball spin around a wheel, and probably losing. Zoom forward to the present day, and I have just texted Jeremy Corbyn's ex-spokesman, asking him if he's having a good day. (He replied straight back with "It's hectic Jase"). And 48 hours before that, I was in London actually interviewing him. Oh, his name is Matt Zarb Cousin. A few months before that, Carolyn Harris (an MP for Swansea) travelled on a train for five hours to my home town of Emsworth to meet me too. We met at my local coffee shop and chatted for hours and hours about the dangers of the fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). She was the one who introduced me to Matt Zarb. A month later, Matt drove to Emsworth, and we hit it off straight away. I told him my entire life story in our four hour meeting. He actually told me that he too once had a major gambling addiction, got himself into £20k of debt, was hooked on the FOBTs and thought about taking his own life many times. That's the reason we clicked straight away. The gambling addiction can get hold of anyone.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself, to see if this is all a dream. I'm now actually campaigning with MPs to lower the stakes on FOBTs. I'm travelling to London and having lunch in Japanese restaurants with them. I'm having my picture taken with them, I'm bloody interviewing them!

I believe in a lot of sayings, but there is one that I forcefully find false, and that's "A leopard can't change its spots". Because I certainly have. All the conning, cheating, lying, and the evil gambling has exited my soul. I am a changed man, and I'm actually starting to like myself. The person I was for many many years wasn't nice at all.

I will continue to campaign with Matt until these vile, nasty, evil machines get reduced. And after they get reduced, I will then campaign about the continuous gambling adverts shown on TV, enticing the vulnerable to gamble. In between campaigning, I will also start on my next book. I've already got the title of it in my head, and I'm sure Bryan (my delightful publisher) will want me to tone it down just a little!

Leaving on a serious note, I am so happy to be involved with these campaigns. It is extremely overwhelming the support I am getting. Deep down, I've always been a bit of an emotional chap, and the messages I receive (daily) from my Twitter fans, for example "Jason, thank you so much, if it wasn't for you, I'd still be gambling" do get me a bit tear jerky.

Just remember, if your gambling addiction is getting out of control, don't keep it to yourself, tell someone, get help. Do not take the road I led!!

Jason Haddigan is a reformed gambler and the author of How and Why I Conned the Bookies: Lessons from a Loser for Gamblers the World Over. His addiction led to him scamming bookmakers across England and Scotland. He gambled in Las Vegas and for a time Mexico, winning and losing sometimes breath-taking amounts. But he lost it all and ended up in prison, banned from most betting shops nationwide. He now advises politicians, professionals and reformers as well as encouraging youngsters to steer clear of temptation. He is currently involved in the campaign to restrict the scope of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

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