A gambling addict who resorted to burgling his mum’s house to pay for his habit wants more to be done to stop betting machines ‘destroying’ people’s lives.
Father-of-seven Jason Hollyhand, 35, was in an out of prison between 2001 and 2007 because his gambling addiction drove him to crime.
After figures revealed the staggering amount of money staked on Fixed Odds Betting Machines every day, Jason wanted to share his story.
In one of his darkest moments, he stole his mum’s television, sold it, and blew the money on betting machines.
“I left her a note to say I had to do it – I’m sorry,” said Jason, who lives in Grovehill and works in cable installations.
“I’m ashamed of what I’ve done but I have trouble letting go of the past. When I’m betting I don’t think of anything. All I think about is gambling.
“When you walk outside (of the betting shop) it’s like someone smashing you in the face with a cricket bat. It’s back to reality.”
Jason feels more able to control his addiction in recent years but at its worst, he was sat in betting shops from 9am.
He set an alarm on his phone to remind him to pick his children up from school and once he dropped them home, if he ‘hadn’t finished’, he returned to the bookies.
Jason, who went bankrupt last year, estimates his addiction has cost him more than £100,000.
He bets on football, horses, and dogs but thinks it is the machines which are ‘evil’.
“I’m not saying all gambling should be banned,” Jason said. “It’s the machines – they are an absolute scam.
“I don’t know how they get away with what they are doing by having these machines.
“They are definitely not random. You will be playing with these numbers and as soon as you take them off, they will come in. Once, the number 25 came up nine times in a row and they told me there was nothing wrong with the machine.
“They scam people out of cash and it’s not right.”
Spurs fan Jason was jailed for two years after his involvement in the Tottenham riots of 2011. He was caught stealing TVs from Argos.
Since then, despite struggling to fully curb his addiction, he has veered away from crime.
And he thinks that is a lot to do with having a ‘good woman behind him’. Jason lives with property maintenance manager Gemma, 33, and he has her to thank for ‘keeping him in control’.
He admitted that, in the past, he would see a series of women purely to fleece cash from them. He took £20,000 from one of them.
Jason wants tighter regulations and credit checks for gamblers. “Gambling destroyed my life,” he said. “I walk down the street and no one would know. I’ve lost relationships, I’ve lost properties.
“It’s an invisible addiction. You can be tested for drugs but no one knows if you’re a gambler.”
A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said: “Gaming machines themselves have been in betting shops for over 15 years. They are not new products and since their introduction there has been no rise in problem gambling levels. Since April this year, new measures have been introduced so that anyone wanting to stake more than £50 has to first go to the counter and talk to staff.”