‘Gambling took a hold of my life – and at 23 I tried to end it’

By James Gould

Jamie playing for FC Mindwell

A young Co Armagh man has laid bare a shocking gambling addiction that nearly cost him his life – twice.

Jamie Smith (24) from Portadown became hooked at just 16 and as his life spiralled dangerously out of control with mounting debts from huge losses including one single bet of £21,000, he believed there was only one solution.

“At 23 when it started to really affect me mentally and I struggled with anxiety and depression,” he said.

“I knew that gambling had a hold over me and my life and it was something that was way out of my control.

“Eventually I thought there was no other way out and I attempted to take my own life twice within a few days in December 2019.”

Exactly, a year on, Jamie is now a recovering addict and has starting an Instagram page called ‘problemgamblingni’ in a bid to prevent others following same path.

“I was gambling online as well as the bookies so I would have had sometimes 15+ bets running at the one time,” he said.

“At 22 my biggest bet was on roulette where I placed a bet of 21k which landed on the number 3 and I lost everything.

“At that time the football, horse racing and dog racing stakes where sky high as well so I have punting way behind my means.”

An already terrible situation became even worse and just a year later his escalating debts had nearly doubled.

“I was gambling more than I could afford and started to take out loans from banks, credit cards and eventually pay day loans to feed my addiction,” he said.

“I racked up approximately 40 grand in loan debt.”

It was at this point in his life that Jamie’s overall mental health deteriorated to an all-time low.

“It wasn’t probably until the day after my second suicide attempt standing in a field looking at the vehicle I had crashed and realising just how lucky I was to be alive,” he said.

“I thought to myself I have a huge problem and someone out there is giving me a second chance at life and I need to go and get help to get myself sorted.”

Since then, Jamie has been campaigning for tighter regulations on gambling.

He wants to see changes so that no other youngster falls prey to the addiction.

“I think online gambling could be policed a lot better and more tougher rules and regulations put in place. It’s insane that someone can place a bet with any amount of money and not be questioned, he said.

“But there is hope. I never ever thought I would get to a stage where I was content in life again and can honestly say I have lived life this year for the first time since I was 16.”