Ex-gambler who attempted suicide says credit card ban is ‘not enough’

A recovering gambling addict who attempted suicide after spending £250,000 at the bookies has said a ban on using credit cards to place bets is “not enough” to tackle problem betting.

Nick Phillips said the new restriction announced by the Gambling Commission on Tuesday is a “welcome but small” step.

From April 14, gambling companies will no longer be able to accept credit card payments from punters wishing to place a bet as the regulator introduces a new crackdown on the industry.

Mr Phillips, a 44-year-old father-of-two from Swansea, warned that addicts would still find ways to feed their habits.

“If you have got a credit card with a lot of money on, you can still draw the money out,” he said.

“Gamblers will always find a way around obstacles like that, so it’s still not enough.”

Mr Phillips said a new independent body is needed to tackle fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), payday loan gambling, and “VIP schemes” which reward gamblers who regularly lose large sums with freebies.

He also called for an overhaul of the law, adding that the 2005 Gambling Act – the UK law which aims to ensure betting is fair and protects vulnerable people from being exploited – is “outdated by 15 years”.

“The digital world has taken over and the Act isn’t fit for purpose any more,” he said.

“A push for a new Gambling Act is what we need, because companies are not taking enough steps to regulate themselves properly.”

The “lifelong recovering gambler” said he used three credit cards to place bets when he was suffering with PTSD shortly after serving two years in the armed forces.

Mr Phillips, who was then an HGV driver on a £25,000 salary, said: “My gambling got so desperate, (my earnings) weren’t even scratching the surface.

“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much money you win, you always have to pay it back.”

Mr Phillips went to extreme lengths to fund his gambling, including stealing more than £5,000 from a social club where he later worked as a bar manager.

He was given a suspended sentence after handing himself in.

The former gambler said he spent three months in a mental health facility after losing his home and trying to take his own life in 2011 – an attempt he repeated in 2016.

He said: “I went to a wooded area, where fortunately I was found by a dog walker.

“I know how bad this addiction can be. It can drive you to suicide – I’m very fortunate to be here.”

Mr Phillips has now been clean from gambling for two years, and supports others struggling with betting addiction through Gamblers Anonymous and the Gambling with Lives charity, while studying for a degree in psychology and counselling at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.