Lenny was referred to me by Probation & Parole. His gambling, which had started as playing the pokies after work, had become a problem. But like many, he didn’t see it happening…
Lenny had never expected to go to prison. The experience had made him seriously examine how this had happened, and as he told me his story, I could see how his gambling had hurt him and others.
Lenny had a great job with potential for promotion. At 24 years of age he had shown himself to be a reliable, trustworthy and bright employee. He had been given the responsibility to transfer large sums of money interstate and overseas for the company he worked for.
Lenny had just gone through a relationship break up and was feeling down. As a way of filling in time, he started to play the pokies after work. Initially an innocent and enjoyable way to take his mind off things, Lenny was not prepared for what would happen. He won a huge jackpot! Two weeks later he won another substantial amount of money.
Lenny felt ‘on top of the world’. Everyone in the club began to notice him, and he felt his luck had changed. In no time, Lenny started to believe that he was luckier than other people. He thought he had skills that enabled him to win.
Lenny continued gambling, but with less luck. Before he knew it, all his winnings were gone, and he was gambling his monthly pay in one day.
Soon, he was behind in his rent. Lenny was desperate and transferred money from work into his account. He was “only borrowing it”. He believed he could get another big win and all his problems would be over and he would return the money.
He was only “borrowing” money from work, but soon Lenny was transferring more and more money from different accounts into his account. He was trying to win back the money he had lost, but the more he played the more he lost.
Lenny’s work discovered he was stealing and decided to prosecute.
Although Lenny borrowed money from his distraught parents, his employer realised he was unlikely to ever pay them back. Lenny went to prison, and his gambling problem did not reduce his sentence. He had committed a major crime.
After serving time in prison, Lenny’s Probation & Parole conditions included gambling counselling.
Working with a gambling counsellor, Lenny began to understand that gambling wasn’t a way of making money and he learnt to challenge irrational beliefs about the ability to win.
Lenny gained skills in problem-solving. He learnt relaxation techniques and ways to relieve stress. Boredom had been a real issue for Lenny, so together we developed a program to help him cope with boredom.
Although his gambling cost him dearly, with help and support Lenny is turning his life around.
Counselling helped Lenny really looking at his gambling. He was able to weigh up the positives and negatives of his gambling and admit the consequences of his gambling.
Lenny still feels guilt and shame about his crime and the worry he caused his parents. But he is taking action. He has decided, wisely, to find work that doesn’t involve handling money. He has set up his banking so that he has very little access to cash. And, as an extra precaution, he has self-excluded from hotels and clubs nearby.
Lenny is a good person but unfortunately his gambling got out of control. If he had sought help when he was spending more money than he meant to, he may have avoided committing a crime.
According to research (Blaszczynski and McConaghy 1994) 20% of problem gamblers in treatment have been prosecuted. Larceny, embezzlement and the misappropriation of funds were the most common crimes reported.
Many of those who committed these crimes did not have a previous history of conviction and were found to work in white-collar professions that provided them with direct access to money.
If you are gambling more and more, and are tempted to borrow or steal, reach out for help before it is too late!
You can access free help 24/7 by calling 1800 858 858 (free from a landline, they will call you back if you’re on a mobile) You can also find free counselling help near you by clicking here http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/GamblingHelp/HelpNearYou/Search.aspx
Free online counselling via instant message or email is also available, click here http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/accessing-support/online-counselling.aspx