A man who spent up to 14 hours a day in front of a screen spinning online slot machines has revealed the moment that hooked him.
Jack Symons, from Southampton, says he started gambling at just 14 years old – playing online poker.
But the 36-year-old, who has now launched an app to help people stop gambling, wasn’t totally gripped by gambling until one spin changed his life forever.
Speaking to Express.co.uk about his journey, Jack said: “It started when I was about 14 and what got me into gambling was online poker – but I had been around gambling all of my life.
“It was really as my independence and my access to money grew.”
Jack went to the University of Surrey to study tourism – but despite spending much of his time playing online poker – and spending “tens of thousands” on the hobby – he felt his gambling was still under control.
He said: “Uni for me was quite an interesting experience and I was spending a lot of time playing online poker – although I wasn’t losing that much.”
Jack says that he funded his habit through part-time bar work – but needed bailing out from his dad.
“My dad did have to bail me out once or twice,” says Jack.
After leaving university Jack managed to hold down work and relationships but started to be enticed into playing online slots which he dubs the “crack cocaine” of the gambling world where people can spend £15,000 a spin and burn through £1m in an hour.
And in 2012, age 26, his life changed.
“I changed quite dramatically after a £30,000 win – which was on one spin,” says Jack.
“My ability to accept loss increased.”
“I became a jackpot gambler – playing games I didn’t like.”
Jack says he managed to buy a car, take his brother skiing and give some cash to family members – but says he spent the other half on gambling. Then things got much worse.
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He said: “At my peak I was spending 14 hours a day on slots.
“It puts you in a trance like nothing else – I still find the idea of it quite mesmerising.”
Jack estimates throughout his time as an addict gambler he spent “just shy of £100,000.”
It was in 2015 when his family intervened, telling him things had to change.
He said: “That’s when I realised I needed to stop. It was obvious to my family and they told me that I had to stop, too.”
Through a number of measures that had been introduced to help those in Jack’s situation, he managed to get his problem under control – including the ability to ban yourself from websites.
And Jack felt this kind of support could be built on – setting up Gamban in 2015, which is at the forefront of gambling blocking software.
Since then Gamban has gone from strength to strength and is used by thousands of people worldwide, with some users informing the team that it has literally saved lives.
Jack is now married and has a baby on the way, which is due in December – and he finds strength in helping others who are in the throes of gambling addiction.
Jack said: “I’m not gambling and Gamban is helping thousands of people around the world.
“It really is a labour of love.”
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