A St Helens mum has told how she racked up debts of more than £45,000 after getting hooked on online bingo.
Kelly Nield, 32, went on eight hour sessions, maxing out five credit cards and blowing her and her partner’s saving to feed her addiction.
Her habit became so bad that she began to have suicidal thoughts and even turned to self harm after worrying about how she would ever escape the habit.
Mum-of-one Kelly, of Billinge, said: “You get to the point where you can’t see a way out.
“It’s a vicious cycle as when you win get the buzz to play again, and when you lose you just want to get your money back.
“I just wanted to find a way to make myself stop and when my thoughts turned dark I knew I had to get help.”
My partner and I were saving around £500 a month and I would just access the accounts and spend what I could. Now we’re left without any savings at allKelly Nield
Kelly was signed off sick from her job as a residential childcare worker in 2012 when she was tempted to try online bingo after stumbling across Foxy Bingo.
The site was advertised with a bright, brash advert and was promoted on daytime TV programme The Jeremy Kyle Show - giving Kelly a way to kill and hour or two.
“You can go on and do it in your own home in comfort and to begin with it’s not a big deal,” she said.
“I’d been to Bingo with friends in the past but not spent more than about £20. It had never been an issue before.
“But they always let you win something to begin with or offer you free plays. In just over six months, I was £10,000 in debt.”
Kelly’s online bingo habit quickly spiralled out of control, and the first thing she would turn to in the morning was her smartphone, where she could get her kick within seconds.
She said: “I would gamble from the second my family left in the morning until they came home at night, and when they were home she would sneak off to her bathroom and bedroom to play.
“My partner would come home and comment that the house hadn’t been touched and it was because I’d be sat on it all day, gambling.
“For the first two years I put everything on credit cards. Because I was off and suffering with stress, I don’t really remember it. I think I was just blocking out what was going on
“I know the difference between right and wrong so now I think what on earth was I doing.”
But her addiction didn’t stop there as Kelly took out more credit cards, arranged more overdrafts on her bank account and began to dip into the family’s savings.
Kelly said: “I’ve ended up with five credit cards in total - one for £10,000 and the others all have around £5,000 on them.
“I’d maxed them all out by the end of 2013 and then until the middle of 2014 I was using any cash I could get my hands on.
“I managed to get a £1,600 overdraft on one of my accounts and I just spent.
“My partner and I were saving around £500 a month and I would just access the accounts and spend what I could.
“Now we’re left without any savings at all.”
Eventually, Kelly came clean to her partner Ian Nairn, 37, and she found the strength to visit her doctor - both of whom supported her to take control of the habit.
But Kelly is now hitting back at the advertising of online bingo sites, may of which are endorsed by celebrities and aired at all times of the day, make gambling attractive to people of all ages.
“Drugs, alcohol and sex would not be advertised before the watershed but why is it okay to advertise gambling,” she said.
“Celebrities are involved with it but do they know the severity and stress of what they’re doing to people?
“They target vulnerable people and make them believe they can make money from gambling.
“I understand some people gamble and have no issues. But many people have a problem and this destroys lives, families and even drives people to suicide.
“It destroys people and leaves them with long term debts, depression and stress.
“No-one gives you anything for nothing in this world and something needs to be done about it.”
Dirk Hanson, CEO of gambling support charity Gamcare, said: “We applaud people who come forward and admit that they have a problem with gambling.
“We encourage people to get support either for themselves or for family members or friends who might be struggling.
“There is help available out there either through support groups or through one-on-one counselling.
“We know that women in particular are drawn to online forms of gambling and they are more likely to access these services online.
“We offer an online chat service through our helping where people can anonymously come through and chat with one of our advisors.
“It is a reality that people can get hooked on these websites, and people should be fully aware of the risks before getting too involved.”