For those familiar with my personal story, they may be a little surprised to read the headline. Where critique is needed and justified, I'm amongst the first to call out malpractice, But at the same time it is important to me that we recognise where a business will go above expectations. On occasion, the question has been raised, 'why awareness and Education? ''Education isn't proven to work!' well in this article I hope to show you why we are so passionate in what we do.
few will be well aware of my admiration for one particular business and the way they address disordered gambling and will find no surprise at the protagonist of this article, yet on the weeks anniversary of Deal Me Out's 1st birthday it has left me thinking about how education and awareness can provide an excellent link between Industry and Lived experience organisations, and what this can achieve in what we all agree is the most important thing, protection of at risk people.
In order to keep up the theme of hope and happy thoughts, I've decided not to go into any more detail of harms than is necessary. but there was a great deal, it was bad, but not with the Genting.
One evening, I came into a large amount of funds in order to purchase a lease on a pub, In truth, I'd convinced my loved ones to 'believe in me'. As had happened hundreds of times before. Quickly packing a bag, I got in the taxi to Manchester from Wales, Although I'd convinced myself and others the money was a new start, a new pub to run, on some level it was obvious I knew what was going to happen. After checking in to the hotel and dropping my bags off upstairs, straight into the card room I went.
Ordinarily my play at Genting Casino on Portland street in Manchester was low, It was the venue we would attend for a night out, or when funds were low, but this was different. More often that not, buy in's at this Casinos would have been £200, £400, £600 per night which was incredibly low considering my spend in another Casino which could venture into tens of thousands of pounds on the table at a time. During the evening, from about 8pm until the poker tables closed at 7am, i had lost over £4,000, Although it was not unheard of for me to play big at Genting, it was unusual, there was about £2,000 left in my bank account, so for the first time at that Casino (although common place in others), after the poker tables closed, I ventured over to the Roulette tables and spent some time playing there. During the evening my behaviour was far removed from the person the employees had known over the many years of play.
The card room manager and dealer that had witnessed my play throughout the previous evening and were leaving to go home at approximately 9am, they came to the roulette table I was hunched over and asked if I would come out for a cigarette with them, the ensuing chat was the catalyst for changing and saving not only my life, but the lives of everybody that loves me.
'Come on mate, you've been playing since 8pm, it's light outside, go back to your hotel and sleep, come back another day. If you need to talk, message me'. I burst out crying outside the venue, a 6ft 7, bald, ex doorman outside a casino sobbing his eyes out whilst the rest of the world was navigating the rush hour on their way to work, scoffing down the Mcdonalds double egg Mcmuffin whilst my life was crashing down. This was the very first time in over a decade of play, somebody had stepped in to save me from myself, and that morning, I went back to the hotel with £2000 in my pocket.
Now, It would be great to have gone home and explained the situation to my family, but of course, I didn't. Fearing not be allowed to play within that Casino the next night due to the interventions of the team, I went back to my regular haunt, and lost the remaining £2,000, plus an amount, to this day I cannot recall from my parents credit cards, I had made my mind up, win it back, or kill myself. The entirety of the Walk between (Bad Casino) and Genting I'd googled bridges over train tracks, It was implausible to come clean to my partner. I grabbed as much money as i could from the credit cards at an ATM and ventured through the doors, past the security with a smile and a hello and signed into Genting to throw away my last couple of bullets before the inevitable happened.
Within minutes of sitting down, A Manager came to the table and asked me to come for a quick chat. We discussed the previous night, The team had the gall to grass me up! And I'm so glad they did. The manager asked to see my bank statements and proof of affordability, this was in 2018! Of course, I couldn't show them any that didn't involve loans, borrowing and worse. A Manager of the casino told me point blank that she thought I might be addicted to Gambling. I've been through courts and spent decades gambling, but this was the first time that had EVER been put to me. Of course it was clear to everybody else.
They didn't know I had already decided before going into the casino, to take my own life, it is worth saying this wasn't a particularly uncommon theme, and I had made two attempts in the past. I was a broken, terrible person, good to nobody, a disgrace and unlovable, no friends, money and the most despicable person to my amazing, beautiful supportive girlfriend.
During the chat with the manageress, we discussed a whole host of things, she was incredible, there was no pre conceived ideas or judgement, just support, opening up felt good. I decided to do what I hadn't done for 15 years, tell the truth. I called up my girlfriend and told her what I had done, I told her I had a serious problem, but for the first time I accepted responsibility for the actions I had taken, Genting had not done anything wrong, she said 'i know, we all know you're a gambling addict' She knew exactly what that money was going to go on, but she was scared of the depths i would go to obtain the money if she didn't get it me, this is the unfortunate fate of millions of affected others, mostly women and children blindsided by their love for a person and forever taking the burden and putting on their own shoulders. The love, respect and admiration I have towards my partner is unfathomable, I don't show it nearly enough, to this day I need to do more to thank her for every second of support she has shown. The same can be said for my parents.
Upon arriving home that morning i stumbled across a documentary on YOUTUBE by Alexis Conran which helped me understand the plight of affected others, that was the last day that I gambled. Personally I attribute my recovery down to a number of things, But the process to understanding what I needed, was delivered through prompt and caring customer service by a Casino.
Recently I've been in contact with members of the Genting team of all levels, from croupiers to the top brass, for me and in my experience only, I cannot speak more highly of not only that particular casino staff and management, but the core values of the business. Without keeping people and customer care at the core of a business, this intervention would never have taken place.
There may be people perhaps questioning the praise, but I cannot see the justification for this, For anybody that has been harmed, Don't we all wish that an operator had taken the steps that had been afforded to me? What would my life have been like if 10 years ago, a different Casino had stepped up and done the same, maybe it wouldn't have been different at all, maybe it is down to timing, who knows. Shouldn't we be singing from the ceilings to say THIS IS HOW TO DO BUSINESS. When in doubt, take action, protect and provide un paralleled customer service to every customer be that that £5 slot player or the high rolling roulette player. What would have happened if this intervention had not taken place? How many lives could have been changed or saved by what is, let's face it, basic customer service skills.
So where does this fit into education and awareness, Well, I shared my story with Genting, after reaching out to Nigel Harvey their Head of AML and MLRO I was touched to receive his, honest and appreciative reply, This was then put forward too their VP, Jon Duffy. Again, we had an incredibly open and fruitful discussion. It took me by surprise how affected and touched they were by my story and I know this has been shared with many in Genting as to why PG interventions are so important. A few weeks after these inspiring chats, I got a message out of the blue from Nigel, their head of AML, which has stuck with me, as to the importance of awareness and how important these workshops are to everybody, In that email a few lines stuck out like a sore thumb 'Almost everyday you've come in to my head. I don't think my job will ever be the same now.'
For somebody, anybody to reach out weeks after a chat and give that feedback, it is both humbling and inspiring to think of what can be achieved through awareness and education, For anybody that delivers this prevention, we will all have stories about how we have impacted the lives of others, and the good feedback, for me, being able to bring those affected by gambling harms to the forefront of peoples minds is part and parcel of what we need to achieve. In my eyes, Lived experience has a raw, and impactful way of living on in the memory and should be at the corner stone of awareness.
Comparing a business that allowed a player to play poker for 5 days straight through at the same table without leaving/sleeping, selling their phones on gumtree and having them picked up at the table to continue playing and to lose 10 - 15 thousand pounds whilst staff were aware, a business that's dealers have a WhatsApp group with professional players to inform them when 'Whales' are in, something I was both included in, and apart of. After starting my recovery I was informed there was group that would inform players when I was 'On Tilt' or had been playing for days on end, If we compare that to the actions taken by Genting, I think we can all agree, there are lessons that can be learned from those prepared to be better.
There is no secret hidden agenda behind this article, I've been pretty vocal in the past around my support for them, But as we turn 1 year old, I wanted to focus on something good, something we can hope others strive to do themselves, and maybe an article that makes one or two take gambling addiction seriously
So, from me and my family, Thank you Genting,