Life With A Problem Gambler – Gambling and Drug Addiction

gamblingCredit: David Steynberg – People

Sarah’s husband Karl (not their real names) got hooked on gambling. It destroyed his marriage and robbed a year of his children’s lives.

Pretty, blonde-haired Sarah is just left with “ifs” after a three-year-long gambling problem steadily took hold of her husband, Karl*, and ripped her young family apart.

Welcoming us into her dimly-lit Woodmead sectional title home, the 38-year-old mother of three begins with her story almost immediately. Speaking in a slightly hushed voice, possibly wanting to protect the ears of her nine-year-old son playing in the room up the tiled stairs, Sarah begins with a story of how she, her husband and their children would be given accommodation and airfares to casino resorts around the country just so her husband could gamble. “It was crazy,” she says, the words from her lips tripping over themselves.

Asking her to backtrack, to start at the beginning, Sarah tells People that she met her husband through a friend back in 1998. At the time, she was a single mother with two young daughters and, Sarah admits, “he supported us; the kids saw him as their dad”. “In the beginning gambling wasn’t a problem,” she says, explaining that because he is Chinese, gambling is part of his culture. “They all gamble; just like they all smoke and drink. It’s about being a man in that culture. There were no casinos in Cape Town then and we would fly to a casino resort for the weekend – it was something that he couldn’t just get up and do because it needed some planning. While there, he would spend only a few hours gambling. There was no problem – he did, however, say that he needed to get a silver card, a gold card. That that would give us discounts on accommodation. That was until GrandWest (stet) opened.”

Sarah says that after GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World opened in Cape Town, just seven minutes away from their up-market Milnerton home, that’s when she believes her husband’s gambling problem started. “He could just drive there,” she tells us. “It wasn’t something that he had to plan anymore. He would go there during the day and just delegate his work to his driver. The nature of his work made it easy for him.” Karl was working in the family business which was involved in buying shark fin from the ships in the Cape Town harbour. “He always had R100 000 on him at any given time – he had to in case he got a call to collect a consignment from the harbour,” she tells us. “When his parents went to Beijing he would gamble the business’s money and lose it. To get the money back, he would gamble even more.”

Sarah attributes much of the blame on the casino industry. “Three years before we were separated, a casino in Dubai flew us there for a week,” Sarah says. “We were put up in five-star accommodation, our airfares were paid for and we were given spending money – all just so Karl could gamble. He would get phone calls and SMSes offering him deals and discounts – these casinos are profiting from and encouraging harm!”

gambling-addictionThat’s something the Addiction Action Campaign’s Warren Whitfield is fighting tooth and nail to get the casino industry to take responsibility for. “About 5% of gamblers are problem gamblers,” he tells us. “But from that 5%, the casino industry receives 15% of its profits! What we need is treatment, not advertising campaigns for ‘Winners know when to stop’!”

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