Like most punters, Terry Kilgariff placed his first bet as a teenager in the Grand National, staking £3 on Red Rum.
But the innocence of the first attempt to win a bet led the 61-year-old former Blackpool bookie on a downward spiral.
“I have lost seven partners, family and hundreds of friends and lived in 25 different abodes,” explained Terry, who lives in Wesham.
“Within the last seven years – I have lost my career, partner, home, family ties and twice attempted suicide.”
As a psychiatric nurse he admitted to stealing £2,000 from a patient as well as creating fake burglaries to explain why money had gone missing.
Terry is now gamble free for two and a half years and is the chairman of a Lancashire-based Gamblers Annoymous.
That group is dealing with several attempted suicides a month all linked to gambling.
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“I want to spread awareness and look at proving that prevention is better than the cure”, he explained.
And it’s not just seasoned punters, but teenagers too.
Terry explained: “They go into bookmakers in groups on Saturdays to do their football accumulators, download the apps on their phones.
“But then they are opened up to it all.
“They are just starting to earn a wage, have little expenses, many live at home. It can get very dangerous.
“My parents used to bail me out and it was only when they died that I become aware of the consequences of my actions.”
Now Terry is using his own experiences to teach medical practices and schools about the risks of problem gambling.
Terry visited Issa Medical Centre in Deepdale, Preston in October where he held a conference for 14 healthcare professionals who serve the centre’s 25,000 patients across six surgeries.
At the meeting Terry highlighted what he says is the “gap in the healthcare pathways” and the “signs and symptoms” that come with gambling addiction, such as depression and suicidal thoughts.
Terry said: “What happens to people when they have a problem is they go to their GP when depressed or suicidal where they get treated for that.
“But the gambling addiction remains.”
For Terry, further pathways are needed to help addicts tackle the thought process behind what “made them become an addict” and what is stopping them from moving forward with their lives.
“There should be an assessment intervention to then help them stop and then make them aware of the illness,” Terry explained.
Terry revealed how those in attendance at the meeting were more than open to documenting gambling trends among their 25,000 patients.
Terry, who is chairman of Preston Gamblers Anonymous, explained: “They said they will ask questions about what people gamble.
“They already ask ‘Do you drink? Do you smoke?’ and now the doctors there have said there’s no reason why we can’t ask ‘do you gamble?’ as well.”
Gamblers across Lancashire were estimated to lose almost £3 million on FOBTs during the 2018 Parliament summer recess.
Help is available
The issue of problem gambling in Lancashire has become so serious, and so widespread, that the county’s mental health services are offering special support.
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which provides community and mental health services across the county, has said it will start offering ‘bespoke support to people who are addicted to or harmed by gambling’.
The Trust is teaming up with Liverpool-based Beacon Counselling Trust who have trained the Trust’s Mindsmatter Service staff to deal with issues brought on by gambling addiction.
Sue Moore, Director of Strategic Development at Lancashire Care, said: “Problem gambling has been called the hidden addiction, this is because it hasn’t been given the same prominence unlike other addictions such as alcohol or drug addiction.
“The physical effects are very difficult to see but the impact on individuals and their families can be life changing. This is a massive societal issue that affects people across all age groups. Lancashire Care is pioneering this in Lancashire with the Beacon Counselling Trust.
“While the vast majority gamble with no significant negative consequences, a minority gamble to an extent which can seriously damage or disrupt their family, personal and working lives. Being a problem gambler also has major influences on mental health and can make people anxious and depressed or exacerbate existing mental health problems.”
Neil Platt, from Beacon Counselling Trust, said: “Beacon are delighted to extend our services across Lancashire and to be able to work closely with LCFT as part an integrated service to tackle the issues caused by harmful gambling. This service will significantly increase the opportunity for those in Lancashire affected by this issue to access services on a local and immediate basis.”
Big changes ahead for bookmakers
In April 2019 the Government is set to bring in a £2 maximum stake limit for betting machines in bookmakers, known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the Budget the maximum bet would be reduced from £100 to £2 from October.
But that led to accusations of a delay - with sports minister Tracey Crouch resigning in protest.
And facing a defeat on the delay to October, the Government changed its mind.
Terry said that he thought the delay was initially brought in “give bookmakers time to look at alternative to get the people on the machines signed up to online betting”.
He said: “I will be writing to Tracey Crouch. She put her career on the line to make this change.
“I want to thank her personally; it also highlights that people are finally taking notice of the problem.”