It is easy to paint a stereotypical image of someone with a gambling problem.
They all relentlessly bang on the button of the roulette machine in the bookmakers, begging and trying to borrow money from anyone crossing their path before heading to the newsagents to spend their last fiver on scratchcards, don’t they?
Well, Trent Peek does not follow this mould at all. He’s 30 and already a chief executive of a group of five companies in Nottingham and there was a time when he earned enough cash from betting on football to buy a flat and a car.
He has done interviews, written blogs and been on podcasts talking about his experiences, but admits now that it seems he is talking about someone else.
“I started doing crazy research on third division Latvian teams”
“I have ended up getting frustrated at times and when I do I feel I’m back five years ago because I hardly think about it anymore,” he said.
He doesn’t gamble these days, having got to the bottom of his issues after relaying his story about how his gambling escalated from what once was a disciplined, professional approach to a reckless, expensive habit.
“I used to have a little bet when I was 16 or 17, normally a pound on Newcastle to win 2-1 because that’s who I supported and then it ramped up when I went to university” he said.
“Up until then it was accumulators at the weekend watching the results come in, both teams to score and things like that. It was all football then.
“And then I stumbled upon a professional gambling Facebook page, became a member and it was full of tips and advice from a network of people that knew what they were talking about.
“I started doing crazy research on third division Latvian teams and second division Russian teams to get some insight and I made a lot of money.
“When I was out or around someone’s house, I pretended to need the toilet but what I really needed was to place a bet.”
“Then the addiction took over and I went from placing well-researched good bets to betting on everything and anything.
“I won a lot of money and it started to dwindle and as you go down that spiral it just gets worse and worse. I just started betting more to try to win it back.”
When he was on the verge of getting married, he began hiding his betting activity as things got out of control.
“My father-in-law is a vicar and he said that gambling isn’t a career choice, so at that point it was ‘you really shouldn’t be doing this anymore,” he said.
“I was told I had to think about my career and my long-term goals.
“So, as well as starting to lose money and falling in to the addiction, I was also starting to hide it from people and when you are doing that and losing, it’s a recipe for disaster.
“At the heyday of making money I was probably making two or three well-researched bets a day but as it went on I was losing money placing bets at all hours of the day, waking up in the middle of the night.
“When I was out or around someone’s house, I pretended to need the toilet but what I really needed was to place a bet.
“It was on crazy things like European basketball when you can’t see the live stream and it’s like over or under 120 points and it’s literally a 50-50.
“You think you know what is going to happen, but of course you don’t.
“I became a lot more addicted when I started to lose”
“I remember watching a documentary a few years ago and it said that gamblers prefer to not quite win rather than just win. Their brain goes more crazy.
“That was my experience. I became a lot more addicted when I started to lose.”
Soon things were catching up with him
“I remember getting a £20,000 loan out and the contract said that if I paid it back within 14 days then I wouldn’t get charged any interest.
“In my mind I was going to get it, make some money and then pay it back within that time. I managed it on that occasion.
“But skip forward six months and I got sent some money to pay for our honeymoon. But I lost it, placing it on the first thing I saw and then had to explain to my soon-to-be wife that we couldn’t have one.
“As I became more addicted, my skill just went down and my attitude just became ‘I’ll have a cheeky bet on that.’”
“My wife Sarah got to the point where she said she loved me but if I carried on then she couldn’t be with me.”
That episode became part of the motivation to stop and the first step was to get in touch with GamCare, the charity which provides information, advice and support for people affected by problem gambling.
“It was a long, drawn out, epiphany as after the first time I said I was not going to gamble anymore, there were probably three or four major relapses, all the way to October 2016.
“It was the honeymoon money, it was not having the money to go to McDonald’s and the out-and out lying.
“My wife Sarah got to the point where she said she loved me but if I carried on then she couldn’t be with me. So, at that point, I reached out to GamCare and went to some counselling sessions.
“I had set it up so that when I visited any site that wasn’t on that system, all the details went to Sarah’s phone.”
“I don’t think there was one thing that was the reason why I didn’t gamble anymore, but it was being accountable to someone week in, week out. I was actually sitting opposite someone asking me if I had gambled that week.
“Sarah was asking me every day and I used a blocker to prevent me from going on gambling sites. That works to a degree but there are always new ones cropping up.
“I had set it up so that when I visited any site that wasn’t on that system, all the details went to Sarah’s phone.
“She was at a car boot sale with my aunt and she got a text saying ‘Are you trying to deposit £500 on this site’.
“When I got the message online saying that they had sent a message to her number, I felt terrible.”
“Having someone asking me bluntly if I gambled that week was a good thing for me.”
Trent said GamCare’s methods of confronting his issues were helpful.
“I had some sessions over the phone and then they hooked me up with someone in Nottingham and I had an hour’s meeting every week and we had certain things we went through in each session,” he said.
“We looked at the emotive side and stuff that might help to stop it happening.
“At the time I was being forced to go by my loved ones around me.
“My counsellor’s name was Hope and having someone asking me bluntly if I had gambled that week was a good thing for me.
“I live with my wife, we are best friends and I could still gamble all hours of the day if I wanted to. We are all on our phones three or four hours a day anyway. She’d be asleep and I would just do it whenever I could.
“Even though we were in the same household and shared everything, she had no idea.
“The fact it can be so hidden is probably the scariest thing.”
“I had £6,000 on Villarreal to score the next goal. It was just crazy.”
Trent believes that while people with drink and drug problems act in a particular way, gambling is much less noticeable.
“People are coming to the realisation now that it is an illness that needs fixing and I think that shift has only happened in the last two to five years,” he said.
“People would say ‘why don’t you just stop?’ But it’s a bit more difficult than that.
“If you are an alcoholic and drink a lot or an addict who takes drugs, everyone knows around you. You are acting weirdly.
“With gambling, the more you do it and the worse the situation gets, the better you become at hiding it.
“You may have lost £5,000 in the toilet but you come out, put a face on and no one will ever really know.”
A case in point was the night he lost £24,000 betting on Europa League football.
He said: “Looking back now, I clearly had a problem because one of the golden rules is never bet on the Europa League because it is not of a very good quality and it is unpredictable.
“I was at a mate’s house, his parents were away and we were having a few beers and no one in the room or the house would have known I had lost it.
“I had £6,000 on Villarreal to score the next goal. It was just crazy.”
“I’ve still got an addictive personality for sure but I have turned that corner.”
It wasn’t necessarily the losing bets that caused him the greatest mental anguish. It was worse when he had been deceitful.
“There were times when I was out-and-out depressed and perhaps suicidal but they were quite fleeting emotions,” he said.
“Some people obviously have that problem for years and have to treat it, but it would be related to times when I would have been found out for lying. That just made me feel worthless.
“What was the point of me destroying Sarah and my parents?
“I’ve still got an addictive personality for sure but I have turned that corner. I’ve got a successful career and a lovely family and I have just turned that aspect of my personality into positive things rather than negative ones.”
“I remember going to the pub with a load of my mates and coming out about it”
Trent knew he had to be open about things and make changes.
He got a dog, which gave him something to do when he found himself on his own and was a massive lift, giving him responsibility for something completely dependent on him.
And telling his friends about his problems helped too.
“The change was being completely honest with the people around me,” he said.
“I remember going to the pub with a load of my mates and coming out about it by telling them that I had a gambling problem.
“I used to be quite flashy but I told them I had a problem and how I was addressing it. There were seven of us and two others said they thought they had a gambling problem too.
“I’m sure they would never have said that if I hadn’t.”
“It will be the worst thing ever when you have that initial conversation, but they are the people who love you”
So what advice would he give people who think they might have a problem?
“I think if you have a problem you should get in touch with GamCare or any of the other organisations that are set up for that particular reason,” he said.
“I would speak to the people around you.
“It will be the worst thing ever when you have that initial conversation, but they are the people who love you and will always be there for you and, once you’ve had that initial conversation, they will be the people who will support you.
“Also, put in any measures that you can yourself. Take a different walk home that doesn’t pass two betting shops on the way.
“One of my mates got a Nokia 3210 phone so that he didn’t have internet access.
“Those small things might seem a bit futile but they do actually make a big difference.
“If you have a wobble for a day, don’t think you are back where you started.”
Sticking at it and battling through any setbacks is key.
He said: “If you have been gambling every day for three years and then don’t gamble for three months, take that little win. If you have a wobble for a day, don’t think you are back where you started.
“Congratulate yourself for having three months off and try to go again.
“There is an element that once you have placed one bet you think ‘well I might as well do more now?’
“The little wins from nowhere will motivate you.
“You can be a gambling addict for the rest of your life, but you can also reach the stage where it does not cross your mind and the whole experience can become a long distance memory.”
If you are concerned about your gambling, more details on actions to take can be found at safergamblinguk.org. You can also contact GamCare free on 0808 8020 133.
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