LIKE millions of Brits, 22-year-old Matt Burgiss couldn’t wait for Christmas.
But while others were excited for turkey and family get-togethers, gambling addict Matt knew additional football fixtures over the festive period meant even more opportunities to bet on his team, Tottenham.
Matt Burgiss saw the festive season as an opportunity to gambleCredit: Supplied
Matt, pictured here with wife TishCredit: Supplied
This wasn’t just a bit of fun – Matt had already lost thousands and he was relying on a win to buy Christmas presents for his family.
Matt had started gambling at 17, buying scratchcards before progressing to betting on the footy scores. His addiction saw him gamble away £30,000, and at his lowest point, he tried to take his own life.
Sadly, it’s an all too common problem.
New research of over 1,000 UK adults carried out for charity GamCare in the lead-up to Christmas shows that over six million Brits know someone with a gambling issue.
The charity warns gambling can be a particular danger at Christmas, when financial issues, social isolation and mental health difficulties which often surround a gambling problem can heighten.
An early December payday can add extra temptation to gamble, with other triggers including the ongoing Covid pandemic, the influence of alcohol, changes in routine and an increase in sporting events to bet on.
Their helpline recorded an 18 per cent increase in referrals into treatment during pre-lockdown January 2020, with staff also reporting an increase in safeguarding issues around the festive period.
One helpline caller, who didn’t feel like they could tell their partner they had gambled their wages away, couldn’t buy their baby Christmas presents, while another sold gifts to fund their habit.
Recovering gambling addict Matt, now 27, agrees it’s harder at this time of year.
He says: “I felt more pressure to gamble in the run-up to Christmas, as it’s an expensive time – I would look to gambling as a way to make money to pay for presents and then often end up losing money.
“At Christmas I always knew all my presents would cost around £400. I’d get nervous and gamble away the money I’d saved for gifts trying to ‘balance’ my finances, then invariably try to make up my losses and lose even more.
“Any extra pressure on finances makes a gambler revert back to that anxiety where they gamble – and Christmas is an expensive time where everyone does their best to appear to be happy and in control, making it possibly the worst time for gamblers.”
Spiralled out of control
Former actor Matt, 27, who lives in Kent with his wife Tish, 28, told how his gambling habit spiralled while he was at university studying a degree in Performing Arts.
He says: “I signed up for online accounts with a couple of different companies.
“Obviously, as a student, you’re quite poor. I thought I would …….