A former compulsive gambler who spent over four decades addicted to gambling is now gathering support to start a recovery support group in Northland.
Bill Gray, 61, recently moved to Whangarei from Auckland, where he had indulged in virtually all forms of gambling since the age of 13 until about a year ago, when he sought counselling to quit his addiction.
He first sought counselling through the Salvation Army but his life changed for the better after attending a gambling addiction support group in Auckland.
When he moved to Whangarei about three weeks ago, he said the Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) that dealt with those addicted to alcohol, wouldn't accept him in their programme because he was not an alcoholic.
The AA group works by using a 12-step programme. The same programme is used for Gambling Anonymous (GA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) programmes worldwide.
GA meetings operate in 13 New Zealand locations. According to 12steps.co.nz, four are based in Auckland but none in Northland.
Gary has decided to start Gambling Anonymous in Whangarei and hopes it generates enough interest.
GA in Auckland has supplied him with reading materials and Mr Gray has also contacted the Nga Manga Puriri Gambling Services in Kensington for help.
Recalling his gambling addiction, he said it started when he accompanied his mother and her sister to a trotting meeting, where he first betted on a horse.
"From there, I just drifted and drifted and ended up finding pokies, and said that would get me going, and later I used to go to Sky City and spend between $2500 and $3000 a day," he said. "You can tell an alcoholic, you can tell a druggist but you can't tell a gambler ... it's that manipulating."
Nga Manga Puriri gambling services has welcomed Mr Gray's initiative and is willing to work with him.
Programme manager Marino Murphy said there was a great need for Gambling Anonymous in Northland, where adequate resources were always a challenge.