GameCare calls spike with the 53-year-old revealing losing £7million in total
Following Paul Merson’s interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) broadcast, GamCare’s hotline received an unexpected surge of calls yesterday.
The former Premier League player opened up about his personal experience with gambling addiction and the devastating effects it has on his family and loved ones.
While speaking on the show, Merson broke down in tears after recounting some of his traumatic experiences dealing with a gambling addiction.
He said that during lockdown last year, he relapsed on his gambling addiction, but claimed he was on the ‘path to recovery.’ Merson shared his story, revealing that he began gambling at the age of 16 as an Arsenal schoolboy trainee, with habits fostered by a locker room culture that encouraged gambling as a recreational activity.
Merson admits to losing £7 million owing to his combined drinking and gambling addictions during the peak of his career in the 1990s, with the player adding that ‘gambling was a worse problem’.
A passage from Merson’s book, Hooked, was read by Susanna Reid in the studio, and Merson got extremely upset. To conquer his problems, Merson asks for aid in a heart-wrenching chapter, which read: “I need to stop gambling. I love my wife and kids and I’m so happy with them. When I was in Orlando with my wife and two little children it was the happiest I have been in years cos I wasn’t gambling, I hate myself when I gamble! I hate it.
“Please help me, God. I need to pay everyone back and get my wife and kids a house. God help me.”
Merson claims he hasn’t touched cocaine in 27 years and hasn’t tasted alcohol in two years while attending Alcoholics Anonymous sessions.
The hotline had an upsurge in calls yesterday as a result of Merson’s interview, with callers sharing concerns about gambling-related debts, self-harm, and relapsing back into addiction.
Merson’s comments have struck a chord with vulnerable people, according to the charity, since 77% of gamblers phoning its hotline are males, and two-thirds (66%) of GamCare treatment participants have debt problems.
Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive at GamCare said “The sudden influx of calls we have received following Paul’s interview highlights how important it is to speak up on issues around gambling, to help tackle the stigma and ultimately to reduce gambling-related harm.”
“We know how difficult it can be for people to speak publicly about gambling – their own or someone else’s – and it is encouraging to see public figures such as Paul come forward on Good Morning Britain and to see the positive influence it can have on others seeking help.
“We urge anyone who is struggling with gambling to contact us on the National Gambling Helpline. We want you to know we are here for you, we understand and we can help. If you think someone you know needs support, please get in touch.”
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