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Worker spent all he had as machines sucked him in

By Steve Deane

Despite his lengthy, frequent gambling sessions, there was never any intervention from the gambling operators. Photo / Duncan Brown
Despite his lengthy, frequent gambling sessions, there was never any intervention from the gambling operators. Photo / Duncan Brown

Working backstage at SkyCity's theatre, Graham used to look over the casino's gambling floor in disgust. A few years later, people were looking down on him as he poured his pay cheques into the pokies.

"I didn't gamble back then," said Graham, a Maori man in his 50s. "Backstage looked right over the gambling area ... It was a cesspit."

A partner introduced him to gaming machines at pubs and clubs. The relationship ended, but Graham kept going back to the machines to fill the void in his life.

At first it wasn't too bad, but things got worse when he moved into the city and had easy access to the 24-hour casino.

He'd spend 10 hours at a time at the poker machines, spending all he had.

"I never borrowed for my addiction, never stole or went into debt. I just went without the essential services of life like food.

Many a time there was no food in the cupboard."

He turned to his son for help, gave up gambling, then relapsed. At one point he ended up sleeping in his car. He's got a flat now and hasn't gambled for over two years, but he knows how close he was to ending up on the street.

Despite his lengthy, frequent gambling sessions, there was never any intervention from the gambling operators. The only advice came from fellow gamblers.

"We used to tell each other 'go home'. We all had a similar issue. We all knew where we were, and that we shouldn't be there. I want to go into those places and scream and cut the cords."

Graham questions figures put forward by the gaming industry that claim problem gamblers make up less than 3 per cent of gamblers. That figure is based on people in treatment, something most problem gamblers don't seek.

"When you have a problem you don't tell anybody. I didn't. You hide it."

He now attends a monthly support group, where he tells others there is hope.

"Since I've stopped I've never had so much money in my pocket. The freezer is full. The pantry is full of food. I bake and I give it away. Things do come right.

"I know I am only a $2 coin away but I know the consequences now."

- NZ Herald

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