Gambling addict Paul Merson became so worried after Boris Johnson’s daily Covid updates during lockdown he visited an online bookmaker – and blew up his family’s £160,000 deposit for a new home bet on table tennis.
Then, in early 2020, the pandemic hit, and by August 27, Sky Sports Soccer on Saturday pee He spent the entire amount and was suicidal.
He has now revealed that he is banned from all bookmakers, and he believes him Third wife Kate He will leave him if he relapses again.
Speaking from his rented home in southwest London, the father-of-eight told The Sun on Sunday: “I was on leave from Sky Sports and at first I enjoyed it being closed.
“I was in the park with my little kids and the sun was out. But then I got addicted to the flyers when Boris Johnson and the man in the red tie showed up.
“My anxiety started and I thought, ‘They won’t have football on Saturday anymore.'”
“I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to be able to earn anything.'” The mothers of my older children have homes and I want to give my younger children a future.
“Kate and I saved £160,000 and blew that into a few bets. It was all online, but it wasn’t a bookmaker, it was a private bookmaker.”
“Wages go to my wife”
The only sport that was practiced at that time was table tennis Championships and golf.
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Paul, 54, said: “My last bet was eight thousand on a table tennis player. I had no special knowledge of table tennis but everything was closed at that point so there wasn’t much to bet on.
“When I got to this point, it was just a total chase trying to get my money back, a prime example of a compulsive gambler.
“This was my last eight greats, but when I’m in the grip of it, I lose all sense of reasoning.”
He added, “I remember sitting in my front room and I had suicidal thoughts and my kids were playing and I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, I just did it all’.”
“It was eating me up for a week. At that moment I was just thinking, ‘What’s the point of being here?’ What is the purpose of my existence on this earth? I’m just getting in the way, and I’ve disappointed my kids for the thousandth time.
“I was looking at my kids and hadn’t told their mom yet that I had spent the money. And when I told her it had become a ballistic.”
Paul, whose two first marriages had collapsed due to his addiction, was afraid that he would lose the third. But despite her anger, Kate, whose maternal grandfather was also a gambler, forgave Paul, although she immediately took control of the family’s financial affairs.
Paul, who has 21 caps for England, said: “My salary goes to my wife and I have pocket money.
“Now I thank God that she is in charge, and she is banned from all betting companies, so I can’t gamble, even if I wanted to.”
Since his relapse, Paul has become an ambassador for addiction support app Recoverlution, which provides addicts with the convenience of a 24/7 digital community.
He said: I know my addiction is waiting, and that scares me. I participated in this because I know that you can put off going to an Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous meeting if it is raining or you are tired.
“With Recoverlution there is no excuse, you have your laptop or your iPhone or whatever. It’s there 24/7 and it connects all over the world. I think that’s an important thing – you can get help in the middle of the night.”
Paul joined Arsenal in 1985 and won two Football League championships, the FA Cup, the Football League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup with them.
But within years his addiction took hold. He said: “I was playing for England and sitting in little dens with a huge coke rock.
“People would come in to score, and then take a double take and think, ‘No, it couldn’t be Paul Merson, could it?’ “
“I was going to drink at five in the morning after nightclubs closed and drank cocaine in the taxi on my way to Arsenal training. I tried to kill myself three times. Someone looked at me. I don’t go to church but I believe in God.”
A period of rehab wiped out Paul’s cocaine addiction, but problem gambling was still rampant by the time he joined Aston Villa in 1998.
He said, “I once lost one of my best Rolex watches to a friend at a game of heads and tails when we were drunk in Spain. He took the watch and then got robbed. But you can’t bet and groan if you lose.”
In a villa, David James and I went to the Birmingham NEC motor show and bought a Ferrari for £105,000.
“I said to the guy, ‘I’ll give you money on Tuesday.’ But on Monday I went to the bookmakers.
“On Tuesday, the Ferraris came down to the training ground and I just said, ‘I lost him. I don’t have the money.’
Then I said, ‘Do us a favor, can I drive a little?’ “And I went up the road and came back. I actually didn’t like it because it had those Tiptronic (semi-automatic) gears on it. I dodged a bullet with that one.”
Paul now attends Gamblers Anonymous sessions, talks to an expert and uses the app – and has chocolate for rest instead of a drink.
He said, “I’m a chocolate addict. Or a pudding. I eat the pudding, which I wasn’t really interested in before. That took up a lot of room for the drink, so it swings and swirls.”
“But my wife would rather have a piece of dairy in two seconds than not know when I’m going home.”
And Paul is determined not to relapse again. He said, “Kate will leave me and I won’t blame her.
“I don’t think I have another healing inside of me. I have done it so many times.”
It’s easy to lose £300,000 a day
Paul worries that young footballers are playing at the top level and they bet.
He said, “This is a growing problem among professional athletes. In Tony Adams The treatment center was 70 percent of alcoholics and 30 percent of gamblers and now the other way around. This shows you.
“Gambling has affected my game more than drinking. With drinking, people can see you.
“Those guys are getting 100,000 a week, someone can drop 300,000 a day and get into training. Nobody knows.
“It is very easy for a player to sit inside and lose money. I am talking about one or two per cent.”