BY Ryan McDougall | February 7 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


a playful flutter can turn into a tornado when gambling

Ian Dunn discusses the dark side of an often glamorised multi-billion pound industry.

I make one bet every year. A fiver stake that the Scotland rugby side will win the Six Nations. In 15 years it’s never looked remotely close to paying off. It’s likely gone for 2020 already.

So while I have my vices, it’s fair to say that gambling isn’t one of them. But I watch a lot of sport, and it’s increasingly unavoidable that a lot of people really want me to gamble.

From Ray Winstone down, any time I stick on a football game there are adverts for gambling. On the hoardings, on the strips, before the game, after the game. It sometimes feels hard to tell if gambling enables football or football gambling. And it’s all wrapped up in a laddish package that insists ‘it’s just a bit of fun, ain’t it?’



Hard to feel that way when listening to Brian Rice, the Hamilton Accies manager, recently suspended after admitting to gambling problems, talk about his woes.

“I’ve been in football for 40 years. But telling my family [about the gambling] was the hardest thing. Telling my partner, my parents, my two daughters. You feel like a failure, a cheat. It makes you feel powerless. I’ve always been a secret gambler, a lonely gambler.

“I would bet on anything—football, golf, horses, dogs, tennis, anything. I was spending a lot—I couldn’t put a figure on it. I’ve spent too much money, too many times. Compulsive gamblers are very good at covering up. It’s never our fault. I would always justify it.”



Rice has taken full responsibility for his actions but this is the classic language of addiction, with all the damage that entails. Yet we treat gambling like a lesser addiction, less damaging than alcohol or drugs, more socially acceptable.

It’s worth recalling that, when it comes to gambling, the actual act is not considered evil by the Catholic Church. There is no mention of the word ‘gambling’ in the Bible, although there are a few examples of casting lots (with a famous example being the Roman soldiers dividing Jesus’ garments at his Crucifixion).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church briefly mentions that games of chance and wagers are not bad. It is the emotions that come from gambling that the Church feels negatively about. Greed, coveting, selfishness, indulgence, power, worship of money, all of these things can control the mind and soul. Once these emotions are thrown into the mix, we’ve got a problem.



This makes sense. A friendly wager between companions on a game of cards or a round of golf is evidently no grave moral hazard. But the 24/7 gambling industrial complex, where the house always wins, accessible through any smart phone all the time, urging you to chase your losses, is clearly another.

St Augustine famously said: “The Devil invented gambling.” Perhaps, but it took people to turn it into a vast machine, designed to snare the unwary and squeeze every last drop of cash out of them.

Think about what it means to gamble, again and again. It is a rejection of what you have, a greed for more, a fundamental dissatisfaction with the self. Think about what it means to be in a society that sees no moral issues in allowing free range to that machine.

And think about the individual, probably a man, who is reading this and wondering. Wondering if it really is a problem. Wondering is there’s any way to win back everything he’s lost. Wondering if there is any way to get help.

Gamblers Anoymous Scotland is accessible through their website at or through their 24-hour helpline: 0370 050 8881

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