He lost half a million dollars in years of online gambling

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 10, 2014

FOR 15 years, Peter (not his real name) would check football results on his computer or mobile phone almost daily to see if he had lost or won money.

The 41-year-old salesman would check football scores on his phone even at work. At home, he would be glued to his laptop, sometimes until 5am or 6am.

He said his gambling habit was formed 20 years ago, when his friends introduced him to gambling. He was unable to kick the habit and even went online to gamble.

"I had to lie to my friends and family to borrow money from them. The thing about online gambling is, you don't need to have money to start. It's all on credit," he told The Straits Times in Mandarin yesterday.

He also visited casinos, but found online gambling more convenient. "It's just checking your phone or computer at certain times to place bets and check the results," he said.

Peter said his addiction soured his relationship with his wife.

"She knew I was gambling and she would nag at me, but I would do it anyway. Even at work, I gambled in secret," he said.

The couple, who have no children, are now working on repairing their relationship.

He said: "It's hard to kick the habit, because I've won money before and you get a kick out of winning money. And when you lose, you will want to keep gambling to recoup your losses."

He has lost half a million dollars through gambling, he said.

One year ago, he started attending a support group run by Blessed Grace Social Services' Gamblers Recovery Centre.

Things began to look up for him, and he became a Christian, which he said helped him a lot. He finally kicked the habit last year.

"Attending the support group and having God takes my focus away from gambling," he said.

Asked about the Remote Gambling Bill, he said: "I don't think it will help much because gamblers will find a way to get around it.

"And we always think that the authorities would go after the bookies, rather than us."

Peter, who attends the support group twice a week, said: "I regret a lot of my actions, and I let down the people who trusted in me."

Blessed Grace executive director Deborah Queck said it was important for addicts to get help as an addiction can be a psychiatric condition and they need the help of a doctor or counsellor. She added: "They also need a change in their circle of friends and need people willing to believe and accept them and walk through their situation with them."

LIM YI HAN and PRISCILLA GOY