Dorset

Gambling addict police officer says industry 'ignoring' problems

Alex Macey
Image caption Alex Macey said he has lost £250,000 during the past two decades

A police officer whose gambling addiction cost him £250,000 claims the betting industry has ignored the problems suffered by its customers.

Alex Macey, from Weymouth, Dorset, wants improved regulation after MPs recommended an overhaul to online gambling to protect vulnerable people.

He said disordered gamblers have been exploited by the industry's practices.

Trade body The Betting and Gaming Council said more regulation risked pushing people to unregulated sites.

Reformed gambler Mr Macey, who recently gave evidence to MPs, said he started using fruit machines as a child before later moving on to bookmakers' fixed odds betting terminals and online gambling websites.

He said he would typically spend about 60% of his income as a police officer on betting, resulting in him missing out on things like holidays with his young daughter.

"It was kind of a perfect storm for me earning a good wage, having a lot more disposable income and having these highly addictive mediums available to me," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Macey said he became hooked on fixed odds betting terminals

One of his lowest moments, he said, was when he was at the cinema betting on roulette on his phone as his daughter watched a film.

He said he would bet up to £900 on a spin of the wheel and would often lose all his money on payday.

"The impact gambling has is instantly of shame, stupidity and guilt - because you know you are doing something that is absolutely ridiculous," he said.

"I keep on hearing from people like me and much worse who've lost their houses and so much more money than I have.

"They're being ignored and they [the industry] don't seem to be doing anything about it."

'Bigger picture'

He said he had tried to exclude himself from websites and continues to receive marketing emails from gambling firms more than two years after placing his last bet.

"I don't just blame myself anymore because I've seen the bigger picture of how it wasn't just my fault," he added.

The Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group's recommendations include calling for treatment of gambling addiction to be offered under the NHS.

Brigid Simmonds, chair of the Betting and Gaming Council, said the trade body would "review these recommendations with utmost seriousness."

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