Like other sports fans, NHS worker Craig Walding enjoyed placing the occasional bet on the football.
But within a few years that bit of fun turned into a serious online gambling addiction that worsened over lockdown and left Craig, 36, contemplating taking his own life.
After becoming addicted to online casino games when the coronavirus pandemic started in March last year, he lost £40,000 in the space of a month — losing half of that in just one night, WalesOnline reports.
With his support networks cut off as the country went into lockdown, Craig’s debts soon spiralled, with his losses leading him to take out payday loans and borrow money from friends and family.
“I was no different to anybody else when I first started out,” he said.
“It was very much an occasional thing - a few little bets on the Premier League, the odd accumulator at the weekend. I never really felt like it was ever going to be a problem.”
A survey by the Gambling Commission found that almost one in five adults in Britain gamble online, with half using laptops and 39% using mobile phones.
Craig, who lives in Cardiff, still didn’t consider his gambling an issue as he began to bet more regularly, playing blackjack, roulette and slot machine games on his phone two or three times a week.
“I was probably gambling between £50 and £100 a week, but it was money that I felt like I could afford to lose.
“I got drawn in by all the offers that online betting sites have - free spins, free bets - and I suppose I began to lose myself in it, it was a little escape and I enjoyed the thrill of winning.
“But, despite that, I still felt like I had a certain element of control.”
By March 2020, Craig had lost all control over his gambling, as the nationwide lockdown pushed him into spending more time playing online casino games.
“Things got really, really bad,” he admits.
“I live on my own, and all my coping mechanisms - going to the gym, seeing friends, having plans - were taken away and I was constantly on screens instead.
“There were lots of adverts everywhere, especially on social media, and companies were sending out promotional emails when lockdown started.
“I remember one company was offering a free £5 bet because of the pandemic - at the time I obviously thought that was great, but looking back now I can’t believe how awful that is.”
Having sold his flat in January 2020 and moved into temporary shared accommodation, Craig had put money into a savings account and he “felt like he had a plan”.
But as his addiction consumed his life, these plans began to disappear, along with the eye-watering amounts of money he was staking.
In the space of a month, Craig lost around £40,000 - all of his savings - as he spent all day playing on multiple online casino platforms - with his most costly night seeing him lose £20,000 on a casino game.
He began borrowing money from his friends and family - none of whom knew anything about his addiction - and took out some “awful” payday loans in the hope of making the money back.
But after gambling and losing this money as well, a devastated Craig “hit the depths of depression”, as he fell into £10,000 worth of debt across his overdraft, credit cards and loans.
Want all the latest shocking news and views from all over the world straight into your inbox?
We've got the best royal scoops, crime dramas and breaking stories - all delivered in that Daily Star style you love.
Our great newsletters will give you all you need to know, from hard news to that bit of glamour you need every day. They'll drop straight into your inbox and you can unsubscribe whenever you like.
You can sign up here - you won't regret it...
“I never thought I’d ever even consider suicide, but I was so deep in this hole that I just didn’t know what else to do, I couldn’t see a way out," he said.
“Getting into all that debt, I couldn’t pay my rent or my bills, and my plans were ruined. I knew at that point, I was either going to end things or I had to reach out for help. I decided to do the latter, thank God.”
After deciding enough was enough, Craig confessed all to his family and friends, which he described as "the lowest moment of all".
Craig is now preparing for a charity boxing match with his friend Robbie Holden to raise money for those who saved him.
The pair are taking part in a charity match at Cardiff’s Pryzm nightclub later this year, organised by Champions for Charity at the Ultimate Fitness Centre gym in Cardiff.
Proceeds from the event will be split between the gym’s charity and Footsteps for Recovery, a Cardiff-based support service which offers treatment and support for those suffering from addiction.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.