A case study - Matthew’s story

Not long ago, Matthew wouldn’t have thought twice about buying a car seat for his daughter’s baby. Today, it’s more than he can afford.

Interactive online wagering can impact anyone. More than 240,000 individuals in Australia are at‑risk of or already experiencing significant harm caused by online gambling

Just 2.5 years ago, Matthew was earning more than $150,000 a year, after 21 years of hard work in the same company.

He enjoyed a bet. Sometimes he’d go past the local bookmaker on the way home from work, or head to the casino with friends after dinner, and he didn’t think much of it at the time.

Then he was made redundant, and handed a payout worth $178,000.

“Suddenly, I finished work, I was angry about it, and I had too much time on my hands,” Matthew said.

“I’d plonk myself in front of a computer at night, and with the combination of medication and alcohol, I wouldn’t even know until the next day what I’d done.

“I’d log on the next morning to find I’d placed $40,000 at 2.30am on some random race in Europe.

“Three weeks later, I had blown the whole lot.”

Even though Matthew began a responsible gambling case against the online wagering service provider, who agreed to pay him back the money he had lost, the ability to easily open another account meant his online wagering activity didn’t stop there.

“I opened an account with another online gambling company. It was almost a blueprint of the first time around—in three to four weeks it was all gone.

“It just shows the enormous pit online gambling is. You couldn’t put that much money inside a poker machine. You can’t walk into a TAB at 2.30 in the morning.

“Online gambling will keep taking and taking until there is no more to take.

“If I didn’t contact them, they would text, email, and ring. They’d say, if you put $5,000 on this race, we’ll match it, or they’d offer me bonus bets, or make me a gold class customer.”

After losing everything, Matthew excluded himself from online gambling sites, but because the system is state based, he had to go to each site individually. He thinks there are better ways to protect people.

“Safeguards need to be in place,” Matthew said.

Matthew says he thinks measures are needed to force people to set a limit before they start, and to only allow people to deposit a certain amount in their account.

“If you want to add more than $10,000, you should have to justify that. I had no limit. It is ridiculous that I could spend $60,000 in one night.

“In the light of day, my own gambling behaviour didn’t make sense at all. You have these moments every morning when you wake up and tell yourself, ‘this stops now’, but then a few beers on a Friday afternoon, and you’re off again.”

At 54, Matthew is bankrupt and living on a Newstart Allowance. He takes Coles bags to get food parcels every week, so that his son doesn’t know where the food is from.

He has found a support network to help him get through the week. But he hasn’t told his friends and family.

“My gambling has had an enormous impact on everyone around me,” he said. “It’s all consuming. You tend to push people away. You become a very good liar.”

“I worked all my life, 6.5 days a week, 10 hours a day to get where I was. I should have a house; I should be able to help my daughter buy a house. Instead, I can’t even afford a car seat for her baby.

Last updated: