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  • Alex Lewis

How Young People Bet - A School Teacher Reveals All

Updated: Aug 18

Who doesn’t love a good de-brief? Me and my mate from uni used to love a post-night out de-brief. You know, to share the gossip. The stories. Whether we went for a kebab, chicken wings or pizza.

Fast forward 10-ish years and I thought I’d write a de-brief about The Invisible Addiction Podcast Episode 1.

(What a tenuous link! Definitely made for local radio, a seamless, Alan Partridge-esque transition).

Right, c’mon Alex. Adopt serious face. (Jesus Christ, talking about myself in third person. You twat).

After I released a podcast about my gambling addiction story, a number of people got in touch. One of them was a secondary school teacher...


I started betting at 18 years old, during sixth form. So, it felt right that the first episode of the podcast series should be about the beginning.

  • Can we build a picture of young people who gamble?

  • How do they bet?

  • What more can be done to educate our youngsters?

Listen to The Invisible Addiction Podcast Episode 1 here.

Jazzy new artwork.

Thinking back, in my own experience, betting at that age was new, exciting, fun. It also made me feel like a man. As if I was becoming a man. Walking into a betting shop made me feel masculine, seeing other blokes around. It was fascinating hearing people talk about betting, trying to understand betting odds, hearing the old boys talk about horse racing tips. And then watching the horse races, the excitement in the room, after people did their research, rushed to place their bets moments before the start of the race, and then took in the commentary and images of the race. Then the final furlong, hearing people gasp and shout as they watched their horse at the finishing line.

It was mesmerising. You can easily see why it gets addictive.



Newbury, my hometown, is famous for the horse racing track. It also has famous training stables nearby, in Highclere (Queen’s horses), Kingsclere, Lambourn. Horse racing is a big part of the local culture. A rite-of-passage for young people in Newbury is to go to the races. It seems fancy, you dress-up, get drunk, and place bets. Oh, the glamour. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good day out at the races. Luckily for me, horse racing wasn’t my vice. That’s not what got me addicted to gambling.

It's hard to escape the 'bubble' of FOBTs.

Getting into Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) or ‘the shredder’ as me and my mates called it, was the start of my gambling addiction.

Going back to when I started betting, we’d head down to the bookies on a free period during sixth form, whilst studying for our A-Levels. Via McDonald’s of course, and a bit of banter. God, it was just like a scene out of The Inbetweeners. ‘Oi, your back wheel’s following you!’ (said to a cyclist). ‘I said shake, not wobble!’ (to a jogger – who happened to be my mum’s mate who came around that evening to tell me off. FFS).


Anyways.

We’d start off by placing a football accumulator. For the uninitiated, you pick a list of teams to win their matches. At the time we also used to place first goal scorer bets. Ronaldo at Man Utd used to be a dead-cert. In fairness, that was one winning bet I used to succeed with. Placing a fiver on him to score first. Must’ve come in at least 6-7 times that season.

But the football accumulator bets didn’t really last that long for me. I was shit at them. Thought I would be good, because I used to play football to a high academy standard. But nope. Didn’t have much success, if at all.

What got my attention was my mate playing on these machines. I thought he was using them to find out betting odds on a horse. Wrong. He was playing the roulette.


Black 17. I obsessed about this number for years.

It looked interesting. It sounded interesting too. The sound of the wheel spinning, the ball landing on a number was fixating. I asked him ‘how does this work?’.

‘Put a pound in, pick 5 numbers’ was all he said back to me, his eyes not moving from the screen.

That was it. That was enough. This was the start.

And like so many gambling addicts, I remember exactly what happened. It was my first winning bet.

Sure enough, I put my pound in and picked 5 numbers. The wheel span. My heart raced. Fuck this was exciting. BINGO. My number came in. Black 17. BOOM. (That number was to become synonymous for me throughout my addiction).

Holy shit. I’d won £7.20. ‘What a win’ I thought.

I immediately withdrew the ticket and cashed it in. I felt like a king. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of a 10-year addiction.

Blimey, that came out of me like I was writing a book. Back to the first podcast de-brief. (Sorry guys, got a little side tracked!).

So, I was interested in finding out how young people bet today. The world has changed so much, with the rise of smart phones, that bookies have almost become redundant. One thing that has helped is the £2 limit on the FOBTs. (Previously you could bet up to £100 every 20 seconds. Madness).

Anyways, it was so interesting to hear what Emily, the secondary school teacher, had to say.

Now, look, I know this is subjective. This isn’t a national bit of research, with thousands of schools participating in a survey to find out betting habits of young people. But this is a viewpoint. I can’t make huge sweeping generalisations, but it’s more to get a finger on the pulse.


Hearing that young people are using betting apps during school time is shocking. But I’m not surprised. I can’t talk as I used to bet during school hours. But now you can access betting via a mobile phone. At least ‘back in my day’ it used to be at a bookies, with closing hours. Not anymore. This is a 24/7, round the clock world. The world that doesn’t sleep. Mobile phone screen time averages nearly 3 hours per day (which is 45 days per year. WTF!?).


They've got us hooked.

Not only that, but more people are betting online, with numerous betting apps. Here’s a few finds from the Gambling Commission Annual Report published in February 2020:

  • 21% of people have gambled online in the past four weeks

  • 50% of online gamblers have gambled through a mobile in the past four weeks

  • 15% of online gamblers gambled in the workplace

  • 56% of online gamblers have more than one online account.

Back to the podcast de-brief. (God, I’m good at getting sidetracked).

What is also interesting to find out, is that it is the sporty lads that get into betting. That was me. Is it something to do with the competitive nature of gambling? Or the feeling that because you are into the sport, you have ‘insider’ knowledge. Like you know something that everyone else doesn’t? That’s an attitude I used to adopt. As if I had a method to beat the system. Had deluded I was.

What also shocks me is that nothing is currently being done to educate our youngsters about gambling addiction. But that doesn’t surprise me, as gambling addiction was classified the same as drugs and alcohol in 2013. So, this is new territory. Schools are already busy enough, with a prescribed curriculum. Drugs, sex, alcohol are on the agenda. But why not gambling?


It has to start with education.

At a young age, like Emily mentioned, most young people have part-time jobs. This age is a brilliant, care-free time. You have money in your back pocket, with limited responsibilities. A great time to get into gambling. Just a thought, but I wonder how much profit betting companies make from young people. Or to know what the stats are like. Oh, how I’d love to be a fly on the wall in one of these betting companies!

When I used to visit the casinos, I’d often see groups of young men. Not even young men, lads of 18/19 years old. Boys. Betting in casinos. You’re so young, naïve and vulnerable at that age. And yet, this is the start. ‘When I’m 18 I can’t wait to drive-drink-gamble-go on holiday’, etc etc.

But the grooming for gambling, starts at a much younger age. (Will write about this more in future blog posts).

So when I say more needs to be done to educate our youngsters, what I actually mean is something needs to be started. STARTED.

I’m absolutely open to talking to her school students. I’d only be too happy to share my experience, to help others, and warn them of the dangerous effects of gambling, on mental health and the high suicide risk.

So yeah.

Lots of points to come out of this podcast. Another thanks to Emily for sharing her insight.

Looking forward to sharing the second episode, with an ex-Premier League footballer talking about his struggles with problem gambling. That will come out next week.

As always, please feel free to share this blog post with others. Let’s keep raising awareness together.

Already had a great response so far.

This is just the start.

Alex

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