Former Gambling Addict Begs People Not To Use Pokies As Pubs And Clubs Reopen
Ben Hamilton's gambling addiction hasn't just affected him. It's impacted everyone around him.
He poured so much money into gambling over 10 years that he nearly took his own life.
Thankfully, the New South Welshman has emerged from the ashes a new man, but he's issued a warning to pubs and clubs across Australia, as they too emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
As thousands of venues were closed due to the outbreak of Covid-19, loads of Aussies were spared from putting their hard earned cash into poker machines.
Incredibly, we've collectively saved more than $2 billion in money we would have spent on gambling since pubs and clubs were ordered to shut in late March. Experts estimated that equates to around $38 million every single day.
Let that sink in for a second.
Ben has told LADbible he's worried that people who were previously addicted to the pokies will reignite their habit now that venues are allowed to reopen with limited patrons.
"The medical experts warn us of a potential second wave [of coronavirus infections], but I strongly believe there will be an unprecedented wave of gambling, that will not stop until we implement some changes," Ben told us.
"People have been severely impacted by COVID-19. They have been hit hard financially, have been isolated and their mental and emotional health have been ravaged. These people are extremely vulnerable, and if they end up in front of a machine, it will be disastrous.
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"Then there are the people who were struggling with gambling addiction prior to COVID-19, who are either in denial, or are struggling through lack of support, and who are often targeted by the predatory gaming industry.
"They will sadly end up right where they left off, in front of a poker machine."
Ben is pleading with venues to keep their poker machines shut for as long as possible or get rid of them altogether. While that will be a financial burden on some establishments, Mr Hamilton said it's necessary to ensure people don't become addicted.
He has set up Kickin' the Punt, which aims to help people with their addiction.
Their social media movement tries to change the way that society views gambling and remove the stigma attached to addiction. Ben advises anyone who might be vulnerable to starting a gambling addiction post-pandemic or anyone who might resume their addiction to speak up.
"The pokies start off by taking your money and crippling your financial situation," he said. "Once they are finished with that, they move onto your relationships, and they take any relationship that you value or hold dear.
"Once they are done with your mates and your loved ones, they take your dignity and self-respect, rendering you unable to feel anything at all, unless you are on a machine.
"Once they have taken everything else, and you have nothing left to give, they take away your life."
He says even if venues don't shut down pokies, people should avoid putting their hard-earned cash in the machine.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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