Former Arsenal soccer player Paul Merson has revealed further details about his long-standing battle with gambling addiction. Merson recognizes it is hard for an addict to stop and calls for reforms, which will transfer the responsibility of controlling excessive gambling behaviors to bookmakers.
Merson Continues to Talk Openly About His Gambling Addiction
Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson, 54, who currently contributes as a soccer expert on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, talked with The Sun about how he relapsed into gambling again during the COVID pandemic and gambled away GBP 160,000 ($182,452) of his family finances, which were meant to go towards a deposit for the purchase of a house.
It is not the first time Merson talks openly about his struggles with gambling addiction. In 2021 he took part in a documentary produced by the BBC, which was called Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me.
The documentary focused on Merson’s gambling struggles during the pandemic. Social anxiety and the fact that he was furloughed from his Sky Sports job led him to spend more and more time online and fall back into the spiral of excessive gambling.
Recently Merson talked about a particular example from that difficult period when he lost the colossal sum of GBP 160,000 ($182,452) on table tennis. Merson was not familiar with the sport but due to the lockdowns there was not much else to place bets on, he blew all his money on this marginal sport.
Reforms Are Desperately Needed in the Gambling Industry
Merson has been open about his gambling addiction story as he hopes that it will contribute to reforms in the gambling sector. He is of the opinion that the control over blocking excessive gambling behaviors should be put in the hands of bookmakers who can clearly see from a player’s gambling activity that he or she has a problem.
Merson has highlighted that gambling addicts cannot control their own activities and that they need support to stop as they cannot stop themselves. What marks a compulsive gambler’s behavior is numerous bets and deposits per day, something betting companies can easily spot and restrict.
Merson’s 35-Year Long Struggle
Merson started gambling when he was 16. Ever since then he has struggled with various addictions. He had problems with alcohol and cocaine, but his gambling addiction was the most persistent and cost him a lot of money. According to his own reports, in the span of 35 years Merson lost £7 million ($8 million).
His addiction struggles have contributed to the failure of his first two marriages and have had continuous negative effects on his finances and mental health.
After the relapse during the pandemic, Merson has shared that he is dreading that this may happen again. Currently, he has blocked himself from all gambling operators and his salary is directly transferred to his third wife without going through his bank accounts.
Merson also gets support through Gamblers Anonymous meetings and a gambling addiction help mobile application called Recoverlution.