“It ended up taking my whole life”
Gambling is becoming more prevalent in college and new research shows that one in five students are using their student loan to fund their gambling habit.
The effects of a gambling addiction can be devastating, and no one knows that better than Bray Ash – who predicts he lost around £40,000 to gambling when he was a student.
Bray’s gambling addiction really took off when he arrived at Manchester University, he said. Growing up, he would place small bets here and there on sports matches and lotto tickets, but he didn’t realize until later in life that this is where it all started. “At 16 I got a fake ID and from there my gambling habits started to increase,” he said.
“The transition from school to college was really tough for me,” Bray told The Tab. “I would go from being really busy playing sports and seeing friends to having six contact hours a week. Suddenly I had all this time, no more money and no structure, so I ended up using all my time playing.
Bray’s game became much more frequent as the term progressed: “I wouldn’t go to any of my lectures – I just sat in my room and played. I wasn’t doing the normal college thing and almost every night I went out I ended up at the casino.
Bray’s gambling addiction began to take a toll on his mental health, he said. “I just lost a lot of weight and felt depressed most of the time.” After a year in Manchester, he decides to transfer to Leeds where he hopes the situation will improve.
Unfortunately, things only got worse. Bray told The Tab: “When I got to Leeds I started drinking, which I had never really done before. So between that and gambling I probably spent close to five or six grand in my first term alone.
“In my second term, I staked my student loan in 24 hours. That was probably the biggest dip.
Bray managed to graduate from the University of Leeds, but not without significant costs, he said. “Much more than the money, I feel like I completely missed out on the whole college experience. I didn’t do any of the things you’re supposed to do when you’re young and that’s probably what I regret the most,” he said.
In college, Bray told The Tab he often tried to seek help by going to college counseling sessions. “It just wasn’t enough,” he said. “I feel like universities are aware of student alcohol and drug use, but gambling is a whole different ball game – maybe the worst of the three.
“You can do it without anyone else knowing about it and it’s really easy to spiral down. I think it needs to be talked about a lot more and there needs to be more awareness because it can be really, really harmful if you overdo it.
Bray finally overcame his addiction in 2018 when he entered a full-time rehab facility. He now works with a charity called Peer help, where he helps support others with gambling addictions. “It’s been a crazy journey,” he said, “but I try to turn the negative into a positive.”
Bray plans to return to university in September, where he will study mental health nursing at King’s College London. “I felt like I wanted to give college another chance and it will help me help others in the future,” he said.
Fiona Palmer, chief executive of GAMSTOP, urged students who are still struggling to seek help where they can.
“Gambling harm on our campuses is a rarely discussed topic, but for any students with gambling problems, self-exclusion can give them valuable respite while they seek additional help,” he said. she declared.
“With online gambling on the rise during the pandemic, research shows the importance of raising awareness of a free online self-exclusion service available to everyone.”
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