Tony Franklin once lost £3,500 on high-speed high-stakes fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in just 39 minutes.
As recently as last September, he lost £2,740 in 42 minutes after making a spur of the moment decision to drop in to a bookmakers. The campaigner for the Gambling Hurts pressure group was on his way to speak at a gambling conference.
He said: “It’s hard to describe that moment when you make the wrong decision. I had that moment when I thought, ‘Oh go on, I’ll have a go’.
“The dopamine kicked in. I lost all the money out of my wallet and then another £2,740. Then I tried to get that back … more and more money on to my card. No-one in the shop raised an eyebrow.”
Gambling has been a hugely painful part of my life. I have been homeless, living on the streets. It has had a huge impact on my family, my parents, my wife, my sonTony Franklin
The now 46-year-old, originally from near Liverpool, said he had struggled with gambling addiction since the age of 10 or 11. He did not see his parents or siblings at all from the age of 16 until he was in his early twenties due to his “chaotic behaviour”.
When his son was two years old, the family house was repossessed. He remembers his son’s confusion about why they couldn’t go home.
He said: “I don’t need to be told gambling ruins lives. It’s ruined mine several times.”
Mr Franklin said he has tried everything from abstinence to therapy to attending Gambler’s Anonymous, and was finally recently diagnosed with ADHD, for which he is now being successfully treated.
He said: “Gambling has been a hugely painful part of my life. I have been homeless, living on the streets. It has had a huge impact on my family, my parents, my wife, my son.”
Although Mr Franklin has gambled on every form of electronic betting, he has long been particularly concerned about FOBTs.
“Roulette is an addictive game. It should never be allowed to be sped up and then put on every high street.
“The machines are everywhere. I used to travel with my job and as a result just spent all day in the bookmakers playing FOBTs.”
He is now in the process of setting up as self-employed, but said his situation was still a “huge struggle”.
“I’m not lazy. I’m more than capable of doing most jobs. I want to be productive in society and pay taxes.”
He said he would continue to talk about his experiences and use his story to help others and to raise awareness.
He said of today’s decision by the Government to slash stakes on FOBTs to £2: “It’s a victory for common sense and a victory for all the problem gamblers and their families who have been impacted by fixed-odds betting terminals on the high street.
“I hope that this decision sends shivers across the industry, that if you extract money from the poor and vulnerable you will ultimately be held accountable.”