A MAN who claims to have lost £2m to his gambling addiction wants to see fixed-odds betting terminals removed from all shops.
Jason Haddigan, who began gambling illegally when he was nine, calls the FOBTs ‘evil, roulette machines’ and is now calling for the industry to ban them.
I want to raise awareness for how dangerous the habit can beJason Haddigan
The 45-year-old father-of-three spent 36 years gambling and turned to crime to get money for his habit, spending time in prison for scamming betting shops.
But having stopped gambling for the past year Mr Haddigan, from Emsworth, wants to help others beat the addiction.
He said the best way to do that is for FOBTs to be banned or have a smaller limit.
‘If it were up to me, I would see the evil roulette machines banned,’ he said.
‘When I first started gambling they weren’t around but towards the end of my addiction I would feed them thousands of pounds.
‘Unlike others, I would also gamble online, on horses, the dogs, anything really.
‘But with these machines I would spend thousands in minutes.
‘If the industry aren’t prepared to ban them, there should be a £2 limit rather than the £100 limit.’
Mr Haddigan said his problem with gambling started when he was 20 and he went on the road with his dad.
He added: ‘I spent 20 years just scamming betting shops and using that money to gamble.
‘I did get caught scamming Ladbrokes when I was 22 and I spent seven months in jail.
‘As part of my sentence I was banned from all Ladbrokes shops in the UK.
‘But it didn’t stop me and I spent the next 18 years on the road doing the same. I would do the scam, get caught and go to prison.
‘I never learned and all the while, my addiction carried on.’
Mr Haddigan, who says he has been to Las Vegas around 40 times, said his life turned around when he was 39. With his new partner, he bought a sweet shop in Havant.
The Olde Sweet Shope opened in 2010 and Mr Haddigan ran it with his family, raising money for charity along the way.
But his addiction returned. Mr Haddigan added: ‘I used to take money from the till and put it into the roulette machines.
‘I would stand there feeding it around £1,200 in a matter of minutes.’
Eventually, the shop started making a loss and Mr Haddigan had to sell it for £22,000.
But he said he gambled that money away in eight days.
‘My relationship broke down and I was on my own. I had hit rock bottom.’
For the next five years, Mr Haddigan continued gambling and spent time in prison. As part of his most recent sentence, he was banned from all betting shops for five years – a ban that stops in 2019.
He added: ‘When I got banned again, that was it for me. I decided to sort myself out.
‘I have not gambled for a year now and I have set up a Twitter account to help people who are like me.
‘It has given my life meaning knowing that I can help others. It has been overwhelming seeing all the messages of people who want to stop gambling.
‘When I first went to prison, there was no help for gambling addicts.
‘I want to raise awareness for how dangerous the habit can be. With all the loans I took and money I lost, I’ve probably lost £2m.’
To help raise awareness, Mr Haddigan has spent the past year putting pen to paper to write a book.
The book, titled How and Why I Conned the Bookies – A Loser’s Lesson to Gamblers the World Over, is due to be published in August.
Mr Haddigan said: ‘I left school in my early teenage years so I never thought I’d be able to write a book.
‘But putting my story and my addiction into words has helped me reflect on what my life was like.
‘If it can stop one person get over their habit or stop gambling then I have done something great.
‘The support I’ve got for the book has been overwhelming.’
But the Association of British Bookmakers said they are leading the way on encouraging responsible gambling and there are a number of systems in place to ensure this happens.
A spokesman said: ‘The vast majority of customers gamble responsibly.
‘However for the minority of at-risk or problem gamblers, bookmakers have developed a range of responsible gambling measures to help customers remain in control of their gambling or seek help.
‘Anyone worried they might be at risk of problem gambling can ask a betting shop to exclude them from gambling for a set length of time.
‘Their decision means they will be refused service in places where they have chosen to self-exclude.
‘In addition customers can also set time and spend limits on gaming machines and a new Player Awareness System monitors account-based play to allow early responsible gambling interventions with customers.
‘When it comes to the betting industry, Britain’s bookmakers are leading the way on responsible gambling.
‘We want all customers to enjoy betting as a leisure pursuit and are committed to ensuring that those experiencing problems get the help that they need.’
The spokesman added: ‘Mr Haddigan was part of criminal gang that conned tens of thousands of pounds out of bookies throughout the UK.
‘We are not aware of him losing any money in betting shops.
‘Any views expressed by Mr Haddigan should be viewed in the light that he is a convicted fraudster and conman who was jailed for his crimes.’