Why BBC Three’s gambling addiction documentary is a must-watch


Last year the gaming industry spent $1.5 billion on advertising. Over the past seven years, online gambling has almost tripled and 86% of revenue comes from just 5% of customers. Up to 1.4 million people in the UK are addicted to gambling.

These are just some of the sobering statistics in Game: a game of life or deatha powerful new documentary from BBC Three about the devastating personal consequences of gambling addiction for two young men who have been pushed to the brink.

Although gambling is still commonly associated with betting shops on the high street, these days you don’t need to set foot outside your front door to gamble in the casino. As the Internet has enabled a dramatic increase in online gambling, the pursuit of leisure has become embedded in modern culture, giving an image of carefree fun and accessibility.

But gambling, as the new documentary so powerfully explains, is also a potentially dangerous activity, especially for young men under 25 who are more than three times more likely to become addicted.

The word addiction is not hyperbole. As a consultant psychologist explains in the documentary, gambling can be as addictive as cocaine. This means that quitting gambling is also incredibly difficult, and the stigma surrounding gambling addiction also keeps sufferers silent. When people don’t have access to the mental health support they need to recover from addiction, it has the ability to destroy lives.

Game: a game of life or death
Game: a game of life or death

In the documentary, we hear the stories of how addiction took over the lives of two young men, Jack from Sheffield and Harri from North Wales. Both began performing as teenagers and became completely consumed despite their best efforts to quit.

With Harri now recovering from his gambling addiction, the documentary tragically details how Jack took his own life after feeling like he could never break free from its grip.

“He felt he would always be controlled by it, and he couldn’t live his life the way he wanted to, and he despised himself, really, for not being able to break free of it, because he was told that it was was entirely his fault, not by us, but by the culture,” Jack’s mother explains in the film.

Game: a game of life or death
Game: a game of life or death

Following Jack’s death, his parents discovered a wealth of research on the risk of suicide associated with gambling. Despite this, they point out, very little is communicated in public health campaigns about the harms of gambling. , placing far too much emphasis on individual responsibility.

But it is a reality that must now be shouted from the rooftops. In England, at least one person dies every day from gambling-related suicide. This grim statistic and the loss of their son is what motivated Jack’s parents to start Gambling With Lives, a charity that works to make the safer gambling and to protect the public from harm caused by gambling.

Four years after Jack’s death, an investigation into gambling regulations found that the state had failed to protect Jack’s right to life and that the government’s failure to educate the public about the risks of gambling was “dismal”.

“Jack’s investigation revealed that the link between gambling and suicide had been known for years, but thousands of deaths later, real change has yet to take place,” his mother read in a statement. outside the court.

With the release of this documentary, it is hoped that more people with gambling addiction will now feel empowered to come forward and access the help and support they need.

Anyone concerned about their gambling, or that of a loved one, can visit BeGambleAware.org for free, confidential advice and support, or The National Gambling Helpline is available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days out of seven.

Images: BBC/Blakeway North Productions

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