The stories we are about to tell you are personal as they are harrowing and poignant. They remind us all of the fallible nature of man and how easy it is to take something up in good faith and go down the wrong path. Gambling addiction makes the main topic of our stories today.
From losing one’s home to losing one’s loved ones, the gambling addiction stories we have found serve as a reminder of the dangers to why we should seek help when fighting the invisible enemy that is addiction.
Some of the worst gambling addiction stories here will not always be easy to read, but they will certainly be a fair warning to our society, lawmakers, and even players.
1. David Bradford Lost £500,000 in 30 Years
Denise and David Bradford had been married for 35 years when she discovered her husband’s gambling addiction, over the phone, with a solicitor informing her that her husband was just handed down a two-year prison sentence and on his way to Liverpool.
Devastated at first, Denise found it in her heart to forgive David, who had been battling with addiction for 30 years prior to the incident. A full-time housewife, Denise never suspected anything about David’s struggle until that faithful call on Friday in April 2014.
As it turned out, David had accumulated a £500,000 debt across 21 loans, had re-mortgaged the family home, and had stolen a total of £53,690 from his employer to fuel his habit, which had been forcing him to commit more – to the point where David couldn’t afford to fix his house’s boiler, just weeks before that faithful call.
The story of Denise and David is definitely one of the worst gambling addiction stories there is. Both in their 60s now, they still face a mountain of debt that they would need to pay off for as long as they are alive, and living on pensions. Yet, David’s story is partly inspirational, if not for the fact that he squandered their life’s savings, then at least for the fact that he had found it in himself to carry on.
While in prison, he signed up for support groups and joined Gamblers Anonymous. Together with his son, Adam, they have set up a charity to help other addicts who may be facing similar addiction stories or worse.
2. Michelle Singlehurst Gambled £550,000 in 3 Years
Michelle Singlehurst had a cozy life. She was chipping away at a job that gave her £25,000 steady annual income, and her house was worth £440,000, more than many people make in decades. Yet, Michelle also loved to escape in games.
Nintendo and GameCube gaming became online slots, and between taking care of her husband, daughter, and elderly mother who nearly passed away in a nursery home due to maltreatment, something inside Michelle snapped.
Suddenly, online gaming didn’t seem such a bad idea. She would escape her worries playing away for hours, waking up at night, and logging back in. At one point, she had no idea if she had any money left.
She felt embarrassed as well as drawn to gambling. Before long, she had incurred thousands in debt from friends, and this would only be the beginning of what is one of the worst gambling addiction stories we have read.
Michelle decided to take care of her mother, and so the family wanted to move into a new house that would have enough room to look after Michelle’s mom. The family’s original home was sold, but Michelle didn’t quite intend to hold on to the money. Before long, she had gambled through the entire £440,000.
Her husband, a good-natured man who had no tech-savvy and was with Michelle for 30 years, eventually found out and it got ugly. He blamed Michelle for her imprudence and lack of self-restraint, and took their daughter and left.
Michelle’s Breakdown Follows Shortly After
Michelle spent time with her parents as she started drinking and taking pills. One of these times, she overdosed and was rushed to a hospital. Even then, Michelle said her senses were dulled and she felt nothing – until one faithful doctor visit.
“You have one-in-three chances to survive,” the doctor said, explaining that Michelle had done near-irreparable damage to her liver. It was at this moment she suddenly came back to life and decided to live.
Her husband had started coming back and bringing her daughter to visit. Slowly, he was going to forgive her. Does the story end here? It almost does. Michelle is back with her family, but they have a big debt to cover. In three years, she managed to gamble away £550,000 and, in her own words, the family would never be able to afford a home.
While this addiction story can serve as a reminder for us all about the irreparable harm we can do to ourselves and others through our obsession with gambling, it’s also a good story of redemption.
3. Sharon Who Stole from Her Daughter’s Piggy Bank
Sharon has struggled with gambling addiction since 1992. Pokies have played a core role in her addiction. She became a victim of circumstances with video poker machines introduced to her local pub and even though she found them boring and even “stupid” at first.
One night she came back home and had an argument with her husband about something she wasn’t really sure she remembered. And so, she returned to the pokies bar to sort of “brush it off,” as it was the only place where it was socially acceptable to go on your own anyway.
After a short session, she won $190 off pokies, and Sharon was amazed that the games would actually allow you to win money. This is how most gambling addiction stories begin, with a simple win.
From there on in, Sharon decided to make pokies her full-time job, and she’d spent the next five weeks after that faithful argument playing, trying to maybe avoid work because pokies were there as a substitute.
By 1995-1996, Sharon did start hearing about people losing their savings, maxing out their credit cards, and even having their homes repossessed. As Sharon’s addiction worsened, her husband left, and she felt relieved, as she didn’t have to sneak around so often.
At the height of her addiction, Sharon argued, her husband didn’t matter. Her friends? Her own children? None of them mattered. Sharon only had one purpose – feed the beast, but with AU$0.85 cents left in her bank account, that was a monumental task, so she went to her daughter’s room one night and took away her Piggy Bank savings.
Upon exiting the room, her daughter woke up, scaring Sharon and causing her to drop the money. She ran to the garage and sat there until her daughter followed with the pennies she had collected from among the shattered Piggy Bank pieces and gave them over to her mom, who was off to the pokie machines once again.
4. Viktor Gjonaj Who Faces 20 Years in Prison and $19m in Losses
Viktor Gjonaj wasn’t doing too badly in his personal life. Yet, gambling addiction caught up to him. Gjonaj, the founder of Title Plus Title Services and a smart financier himself, had no reason to end up the way he did. Yet, his story is one of the worst in financial sense, as he defrauded investors out of $19 million to fuel his addiction.
And, his drug of choice – the Michigan Lottery. Gjonaj was purchasing as much as $1 million worth of Lottery Daily 3 and Daily 4 tickets, desperately pursuing a win that never came. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider showed no pity on the defendant either who Schneider argued had caused financial harm to many innocent people.
Yet, his lawyer, Steve Fishman, has been arguing his case, describing what happened as one of the worst gambling addiction stories and insisting that his client should get help.
Gjonaj story begins in 2010 when he thought he had discovered a sure-fire way to win from the lottery, but by 2017, his losses were running in the millions and beyond anything that he could himself cover without stealing money from his clients.
Fisherman argued that the state lottery was fully aware of Gjonaj’s addiction but made no effort to curb it or help him. In other words, Gjonaj’s gambling addiction story is one that could have been easily avoided argued Fisherman.
Gjonaj has little chance of avoiding a prison sentence or having his debt written off. May his story be a reminder of one of the worst things that could happen to you if you leave your gambling addiction to run rampant.
5. Aaron Traynor Who Struggled with Addiction Since 13
Nobody is safe from the “hungry beast” gambling addicts aptly use to describe gambling addiction. The addiction story of Aaron Traynor is not one of the worst you will probably hear, but it’s also an important example of how even people who “have it all” can be easily seduced by the promise of gambling.
Often, it’s not about money, but some visceral ill-comprehended thrill. Traynor’s gambling addiction developed in his early teens, when he was 14 or even 13. He would bet on horses, greyhounds, and football competitions, and things eventually escalated when he started university and began getting college loans.
Apart from getting loans, he also took up jobs to be able to fuel his gambling addiction further. Aware of his problem, he tried to wean himself off, but nothing proved a reliable enough solution. He signed himself up for Gamblers Anonymous and started going to counsel, but his urge to gamble was unquenchable.
“I just wanted to gamble money every single day,” Traynor said, attesting that he must have been losing at least £15,000 a year for at least 10 years. Yet, Traynor eventually succeeded in pulling himself away from gambling, shifting his priorities, and breaking up with a bad habit that cost him a lot of financial and emotional distress.
True, his story may not be the worst recount of gambling addiction you may have heard, but it’s a good way to see that even in the worst of times, we can still find a way out of the darkness.
6. Paul Pettigrew Burns £25,000 a Year Gambling
Paul Pettigrew didn’t have a particularly strong relationship with gambling. Rather, he made his first visit to a casino when he was 18, which is the accepted legal age in Scotland. Yet, what seemed like an innocuous visit would soon turn into one of the worst gambling addiction stories a young man can go through.
While the size of Pettigrew’s losses isn’t so bad, he was a young man who gambled away a considerable amount in just four years, sending £100,000 down the casino drains to feed his compulsive addiction habit from the age of 18 through the age of 22. When he was 21, Pettigrew finally couldn’t have any more of the lying, so he told his parents about his addiction.
To his surprise, his parents understood to the point they got him through counseling and found specialists to help their son overcome the habit, which he did. While the story doesn’t have quite the same gut-wrenching ending to it, Pettigrew was a young man who showed great self-restraint and was in the right place.
Was it not for his parents, Pettigrew might have ended up in a worse situation. Today, he is committed to helping others overcome their addiction.
7. Matt Blanks Who Lost £700,000 in 10 Years
We all have different definitions for what constitutes the worst gambling addiction stories. For the most part, far-reaching financial ramifications are often is of the easiest ways to spot a story that should serve as a warning to us all. Matt Blanks’ flirtation with gambling quickly turned disastrous as he burnt through £700,000 in 10 years.
The money included a £100,000 inheritance from his grandmother and £200,000 of his father’s savings, a gross misuse of money gathered over the years. Much like most other gambling addicts, Blanks’ story started slowly. It involved a monumental 33-to-1 win on a horse he managed when he was 15 years old and his grandfather took him to the races.
With his parents splitting, Blanks started going to the race tracks more often than before. Yet, it wasn’t until he was 15 when he blew up £1,000 inheritance from his grandmother that he realized – he had to make the money back, and that’s how the chase would begin, costing him hundreds of thousands of pounds just a decade later.
He convinced his father that he had a system that would allow him to outsmart the bookies, and win more. Yet, after spending £150,000 in two months, Blanks had nothing to show for. With the debt piling on and up, he felt inconsolable guilt and shame, and he struggled with sharing his story.
Matt Just Wanted to End it All
Yet, gambling addiction didn’t necessarily stop him from having relationships. By 2013, Blanks had a partner and they had two children, but his gambling habits were still spiraling out of control.
He had 15 gambling apps installed and he would hide the bank statements to makes sure that his partner didn’t know. She even thought Blanks was having an affair. Eventually, she found out and confronted Blanks who promised he would get help, but never did.
Things took a turn for the worse and Blanks felt that the world would be a better place without him in it. He tried to take his own life but was unsuccessful, and it was at that point he reached out to everyone and got the help he needed.
Blanks hasn’t placed a single bet since 2018. His addiction stories could have easily been one of the worst, and in many ways it is, but he still found a way forward.
8. Ted Ngoy Who Went Bankrupt and Rich Again Twice
This is not the typical worst gambling addiction story you hear. At its core is the determination of a young man to be with the woman he loves, and the subsequent challenges the couple faced in the United States, away from their home country.
This is the story of Ted Ngoy, today known as “The Doughnut King”, but originally a refugee from Cambodia who snuck into the heavily-guarded villa of his ex-wife, Suganthini Khoeun, the beautiful daughter of a high-ranking government official, and spending 45 days hidden in her room.
Upon discovery and insistence from Suganthini’s parents that they break off, Ted agreed, and immediately produced a knife and stabbed himself. While in hospital and recovering, he found out that Suganthini had hurt herself too.
Facing this sort of determination, Suganthini’s father allowed the lovers to be together and a wedding came a bit later. Yet, Cambodia was thrown into a civil war in 1970, forcing Ted and his family on an exodus in the United States.
A New Life in California
Arriving in California, Ted’s innate business flair sparked as he saw people line up to buy doughnuts time and again, combining them with coffee. He quickly approached a lady at a doughnut shop and asked her if a $3,000 deposit would be sufficient to purchase a shop.
She advised him to sign up for Winchell’s – a doughnut company – training program instead, and it’s a good thing he did. Ted quickly learned all he had to know about the business of running a doughnut shop, including baking but also accounting.
He opened his first shop and worked tirelessly after a year of training at Winchell’s, and followed that with many more successful openings and leasing shops to other refugees.
Working 12 to 17 hours a day, with the family’s all hands on deck, Ted’s business began to take off, with Suganthini at the counter, and the story would have ended here, was it not for Las Vegas, the place that would prove Ted’s downfall – for a while.
The Downfall of Ted, the Gambler
He was immediately drawn to casinos starting with modest bets to the tune of $10 and $20 at a time. That, though, quickly turned into $5,000 or $7,000 per game, with Ted leaving his home, doughnut empire, and family to be able to play more and more.
It was a disaster, Ted now admits. He would borrow money from people he had leased his shops to. And then, upon being unable to repay them, he would just sign over the shops.
His pursuit of peace forced him to sign up for Gamblers Anonymous, a support group for people who are compulsive gamblers, but as Ted put it almost anecdotally: “I cry. Everyone cries. Then we go back gambling.”
He even spent three months as a Buddhist monk in Thailand coming back emaciated and a reformed man, or so he thought until he flew into Las Vegas to play again and again. Explaining his own experience with gambling, Ted admits that it wasn’t the money, but rather the feeling and thrill he got out of it.
Eventually, they were down to a single shop. They decided to sell it and their son, Chris, went to pick up the money – $85,000 stashed in the trunk of a car that was registered as stolen because Ted had fallen behind on payments.
Chris was pulled over and taken to a police station. When he was released, there was no money in the trunk. “It’s a very, very sad story,” Ted said speaking to an interviewer. So, with nothing left for him in the United States, Ted decided to pack up and leave back for Cambodia.
Ted in Politics
His reputation preceded him. Back in the United States, he was an ardent Republican, and he had met with various politicians, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George HW Bush. Retiring in Cambodia, Ted decided political life was precisely what he needed. Quickly, he decided to renounce gambling and deny his addiction and started canvass for a seat in government.
He felt short as his campaign supporters wrongly misinterpreting his sentiments and thought that Ted was against the royal family – which he says he was not. Yet, Ted’s qualities were undeniable so he was appointed as an official advisor on commerce and agriculture. Life would not be easy from here on in.
Ted put in a lot of effort helping his country get back on track and he got in touch with his contacts from overseas to bring more investment to his country, which was ravished by poverty and some political strife. He spent $100,000 of his own money, time and “everything,” to see Cambodia follow in the footsteps of Taiwan and help create a better future.
As Suganthini had to fly back to the United States for the birth of their grandchild, Ted was left behind in Cambodia overworked and stressed. And so, he had an affair. Overwhelmed with the guilt he admitted what he had done to his wife, who immediately filed for divorce, heartbroken at the news.
Ted’s Second Coming and Moving Away from Gambling Addiction
Ted had to move out of Cambodia not soon after 2002, broke and facing political persecution and with his overseas Republican friends having forgotten all about him. He landed in Los Angeles with all his money, no more than $100, and not the respect or support of his family to back him up.
What started as an innocent gaming session in Las Vegas has led to a roller-coaster of events that pushed a happily-married man to have an affair. It was a humbling experience, Ted said, and added that “many times, I try to commit suicide because I hate myself, […], because I hate the gambling, […]I hate that I treat Christy so badly, treat my children so badly, because of the gambling, so I hate myself”
For four years he was a pariah in the United States, but he started going to the church where his son was a pastor. Ted became a devote Christian and decided to fly back to Cambodia. Still not a penny to his name, he moved to Thailand where he was contacted by an old contact of his who needed Ted’s assistance with a real estate contract.
Ted negotiated the deal and earned a hefty commission, which was followed by many similar opportunities Ted earned through his business acumen, good-naturedness, and honesty. Discovering his new success, he married again and had four more children.
A New Beginning for Ted
He was eventually contacted by an LA filmmaker, a Cambodian immigrant Alice Gu who wanted to make a movie about The Doughnut King and was keen to find out why so many doughnut shops in California were owned by Cambodian immigrants.
For Ted, the movie was a healing experience. He has become successful once again, but more importantly, he had a chance to travel back to the United States and mend fences with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He never stops apologizing and reminding people about the dangers of gambling.
“When you hook up with gambling, your life is finished,” he cautions. Is his one of the worst gambling addiction stories? We certainly don’t think so. If anything, Ted has made it back into the world of recovered addicts, but he’s done so through hard-work, and unfalteringly good nature, and the love of many people and relationships he has helped cultivated over the years.
9. Jack Richie and the End of a Young Man’s Life
Gambling can instill in anyone caught in its grip a sense of insurmountable guilt and shame, feelings that when paired together may incline us to commit horrible things. Borrowing money or going into debt is bad, yes, but ending one’s life before it has even begun is a far more dispiriting thing and one that, unlike financial debt, cannot be fixed.
This is precisely what happened with Jack Richie, a young 27-year-old man who ended his life because in the five years he struggled with gambling, he did so on his own. And yet, Jack’s story is one that should all remind us about the fact that often when in the grip of gambling addiction, people do not fear the financial loss so much as they fear what comes after it.
A feeling of inescapable dependency and constant agitation that makes you come back for more. What happened to Jack Richie is certainly one of the worst gambling addiction stories, not because he incurred £30,000 in debt, but because he felt voiceless and helpless in the face of a habit that he should have been treated out of.
Jack is not the first person who’s taken his life over gambling and gambling debts. Yet, as governments try better, there is hope that he may be one of the last ones at least.
10. The Accountant Who Miscalculated £125,000 in Gambling Losses
A 42-year-old accountant from Birmingham, at the time when the accident took place, was left with £125,000 in gambling losses that she incurred after failing to be restrained by casinos in the United Kingdom. The name of the victim will remain anonymous, but her story is a reminder for us all.
The pervasiveness of online gambling has made it exceptionally easy for anyone to fall prey to the habit of gambling, and not just recreationally or as a form of leisure, but compulsively to the point where few other options are left available.
For a successful white-collar individual, being the victim of a £125,000 gambling loss should not have been the case. After all, the victim was a trained professional whose specialty was numbers. Yet, gambling addiction always finds a way to convince us otherwise.
Sure, this accountant’s story is not the worst, but it certainly shows how easily we could be tempted into going down the wrong path.
Are these the worst gambling addiction stories? We believe they are, but then again, gamblers have hundreds, if not thousands, of similar stories that they have never mustered up the courage to share.
In our list, we have made sure to discover both the good and arguably bad and show examples of recovery, as well as a psychological breakdown of what it means to be addicted to gambling.
From Michelle’s near-death gambling rollercoaster to Ted’s ups and downs, to Jack’s tragic end, there are stories that we should all heed and remember. They all bear some small moral that we ought to share so that others come prepared.