‘I had to know the truth’
Over the course of my career in basketball, I’ve seen two colleagues file for bankruptcy after having issues with gambling.
Both of them were great guys and very successful before they lost relationships, careers, opportunities and great lifestyles. They put their money through poker machines until they had nothing left.
One of them, in particular, really struggled. For him, there were two or three years of constant relapses, while he was in and out of programs to get help.
But we didn’t learn about any of this until it was too late. By then, he had already ripped a lot of people off, ruined friendships and moved away.
Looking back now, I wish I’d known earlier because I could have helped. I could have sat and talked with him or gone with him to meetings to get professional help.
But I didn’t get the chance to do that; or maybe I just didn’t see the signs that were there. Back then, I didn’t fully realise how gambling addiction can stay hidden and lead good people down bad paths.
‘I had to know the truth’
I was unknowingly caught up in all of it, when this friend of mine approached me asking for a short-term loan to support his business venture.
I wasn’t aware that this person had a gambling issue. He sold the idea to me well and I decided to lend him $7,000.
I trusted him because he was a mate.
The short-term loan turned into years of me chasing him for my money back. It was a constant stream of excuses and empty promises.
For a long time, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I’d known him to be a good bloke. But the money never came through.
The truth of it all only came out when I started hearing the stories. A friend asked me, ‘Did you ever have a bad experience with this particular person?’
Until that point, I’d just kept the whole thing to myself, but I had to know.
It turned out that this guy had convinced many other friends to give him short-term loans as well. And gambling was behind it all.
I couldn’t believe it.
He’d been a personal friend who became a part of the basketball organisation through me, and then ended up screwing a lot of people over.
I was in awe of the scale of it.
I’d trusted this person enough to introduce him to my family. I’d even told my dad about the opportunity and we spoke about going in it together. In the end he decided not to, which I’m very thankful for now.
The whole experience really opened my eyes to what can happen when gambling has a hold of someone.
‘No one is ever beyond help’
I’d seen the impact of alcohol problems in my extended family when I was young, and the bad choices that come from that, but I don’t think I realised the full extent to which addiction can change someone until this experience.
And although I still feel betrayed by that friend, I’m very aware that I probably don’t know the full story. I’ve learnt that with this kind of thing, people often don’t have much control over their actions.
Gambling can be a way of masking other problems in their life such as work stress, relationship stress or trauma. The root cause can lie deep within, and a person’s feelings of guilt and remorse for what they are doing can lead them to take even more risks, as they try to make back the losses.
These days I often think about how this sort of thing can be prevented if people get ahead of it early.
I hope that the guy at the centre of this story is getting the help he needs now and taking ownership of his problems.
If he’d been able to call me earlier to have a conversation, I’m sure we could have worked it out. I would have been understanding, because it’s sad to know how much he himself lost as well.
Everyone makes mistakes, but no one’s ever beyond help.