Memorandum from Mr Tony Preston
My age is 66 and I am married with five adult children from two marriages.
I was first married in 1958 with three children.
My first marriage deteriorated from about 1967. I had a history of poor personal financial management. I was self-employed most of the time.
In approximately 1968 I started gambling in a central London casino and became addicted almost at once to both roulette and blackjack. I spent most of the next six years gambling.
I became separated and finally divorced in 1970 or 1971, precipitated by gambling. At the time of the break up I had lost our home, my business, and all assets.
I remarried in 1973 while still gambling.
In 1974 I again reached "rock bottom" and finally admitted defeat over my addiction and joined Gamblers Anonymous.
I have not had a bet of any sort since then.
Myself and Gamblers Anonymous
As a successfully recovering compulsive gambler I naturally accept and approve of the philosophy of Gamblers Anonymous and this creates difficulties for me in providing evidence.
First, Gamblers Anonymous is "anonymous". The purpose is to enable members to concentrate on their own recovery without distraction that can come from publicising their exploits while gambling or details of their recovery.
Second, Gamblers Anonymous (together with AA and other "12 step recovery" fellowships) advocate that they do not have any opinions on outside issues. This is more difficult, but I believe that without compromising this attitude I can still be of some benefit.
Social impact of Gambling
In order to stay within my own self-imposed guidelines I prefer not to comment about the nature of gambling, the organisation of the industry, or the availability of gambling.
I can however comment about the changes that I have seen over last 27 years based on having talked in depth to many thousands of compulsive gamblers.
When I first came to GA, compulsive gamblers were addicted to horses, dogs, casinos and cards. In the first three gambling was legal and the third a mixture of legal (in casinos) and illegal in card schools etc.
By 1997 GA had reached the point when there were 40 per cent addicted to fruit machines and the rest pretty well as before.
In the last five years we have seen compulsive gamblers progressively addicted to internet gambling, spread betting, and the lottery/scratch cards. We also see the impact of the "socialisation" of betting shops by the increased numbers who gamble for the longer hours they are now open.
GA is going through a period of adjustment to the changing social attitude to gambling. When I first came in 1974 gambling was not the totally socially acceptable activity it is today and my addiction was much easier to diagnose and understand. Today all the boundaries of acceptability have been swept away. Gambling is seen as just another leisure activity and not considered risky in any way. Unlike drinking or drug taking there are no "excesses" to give warnings that a danger point is being reached.
Gambling is also related to the increased easy availability of credit, and this exacerbates the problem.
We are at risk of moving down the slippery slope of using gambling as a legitimate source of income both for the gaming industry and government, without adequate safeguards. There are no checks or warnings. Cosmetic safeguards (like warning notices on cigarette packets) are not adequate and are usually treated with hostility by industry and users alike. I am not qualified to make suggestions, but only to warn from my experience of the consequences to society.
27 May 2002