Hello... I’m looking for some advice about my brother who has a serious gambling problem. To give some background, my brother is 36 and he still lives at home with my parents. He has had a gambling problem for a very long time, and owes a huge amount of money to me, my parents, banks, loan sharks etc. He has taken all of my dads retirement savings and pension. He has a fairly well paid job, but he can’t afford to pay his debts even though he regularly finds/borrows money to gamble.
At the end of last year, he fraudulently applied for credit cards in my parents names and spent over £8000. My parents had no choice but to report the fraud because they couldn’t afford to take on the debt. Thankfully the debt was wiped off, but no action was taken against him. I had hoped that this would be a turning point for him.
He then went on to borrow money from a loan shark and put himself and my parents at serious risk of violence. I paid them off to keep my parents safe. This was on the understanding that it was his last chance and that he would need to leave home if he ever got into this position again. He also promised to get help which he failed to do.
Now he is in exactly the same situation. The loan sharks are threatening him and my family, and he can’t afford to pay. My parents won’t kick him out of the house because he can’t afford to live on his own and they are afraid that he will take his own life. He has threatened this before, but I’m not sure if he really feels that way or if it is emotional blackmail. My parents are on a low income and he is taking all of their spare money. He isn’t contributing anything to the household expenses. I can afford to pay the loan sharks but it will take a huge part of my savings, and I’m not prepared to lose any more money to fund criminal loan sharks and to feed his gambling addiction.
He is making all of our lives a misery, and he’s putting a huge strain on my parent’s relationship. What should we do?
There's a load of people on here better qualified to give advice than me. But briefly speaking I'd say firstly he has to want to stop. Often that happens when someone reaches that rock bottom moment. From what you've said he could well be there.
Next step is to remove all opportunity - so GAMStop and MOSES. Then put his finances in someone else's hands- perhaps yours?
With no opportunity and no money he simply won't be able to gamble. But be aware that the compulsive nature of this addiction means he'll likely try everything to beat the blocks.
You can do only so much though- as I said, he needs to recognize and accept he has a problem. And then want to do something about it.
I wish you well.
Sorry to hear what you and your family are going through.
It sounds as though your brother is fully sucked in. This addiction is terrible and takes anything that resembles rational or sensible thinking away from your head. What is your brothers state of mind? You mentioned that he is currently in work so that leads me to believe that he still has some level of control. It is not enough to promise he will seek help, he needs to be seeking help and the evidence of that must be seen.
This is all down to him though as you can't control his actions, he needs to recognize that he has a serious gambling problem and that it's affecting not just him, but you, your parents and everyone close to him. He has to understand that it isn't just about the money lost, there are other serious issues that comes with the addiction and I am sure you've already seen some of those.
As someone who's been where you've described above, I know it can be extremely difficult for your brother to come to terms that all those money is gone, he simply doesn't believe there is a way out of recovering from all the debt except gambling his way out of it, even if he gets bailed out everything he owe, he'll most likely return. He's at that point where he's not willing to accept the bookies have won and he has lost. When you get yourself to a certain level with gambling addiction, you need more than just willpower, promise, ultimatum etc to stop.
SB123, I'll be honest with you, to turn things around, your brother MUST WANT TO STOP GAMBLING. It's the only route out of the mess. Has he been here before? if not, ask him to come and read stories, he needs counselling, he needs to be speaking to people who understand what he's going through.
And by the way, I am not just saying all the above for the sake of saying it. I have lived it, I took out a £9k loan in my brothers name after exhausting all means available to me, although I was paying it back, he found out with 2 more repayments left. It put a big strain on our relationship. I borrowed from wife and father in-law, gambled the lot away, pawned wedding ring, there's no point going down the list.
Sit your brother down and try and talk to him.
@sb123 These loan sharks. Have you seen them or is everything through your brother? Do deadlines loom and he gets more and more intense until it's paid and suddenly he's okay for a bit?
The reason I'm asking this is it's quite common for compulsive gamblers to prey on the emotions of others, always needing more, always unlucky, just this one more time. Funnily enough if the deadline passes without incident then it's because of some miraculous thing he's done or said to give himself a few more days but he still needs the money.
If this sounds familiar then it won't stop until you and your parents have nothing left. He is me, and I took everything.
The only way it stops for you both is if you and your parents stop enabling him and let him face any consequences. It's not on you, it's on him, and as much as you want to protect him if he ends up in trouble with the police or loan sharks(if they're real) or sacked from a job you can't do anything until he faces up to his problem.
Im sorry for your troubles and the decisions you might have to make.
Hi SB123. What an awful situation and unfortunately any solution to this is going to be difficult. I hope that I don't say anything that upsets you as I feel from your post that everything that has been done out of your parents love for their son and your love and fear for your parents. Gambling is a cruel addiction and when it gets as bad as your brother is wrecks not only the gamblers life but the lives of family, partners,friends. You don't mention any partner for your brother is this through choice? Because of his gambling? Or has life dealt him blows in that department? Have you sought any professional advice on this Gamcare will speak to families of gamblers and give advice on what you can do give them a call . Your parents have lost their future and that is so sad and if you bail him out again you cause yourself a big hit. He is ill he needs help but neither you not your parents can fix him, potential suicide is what stops your parents taking a hard line with him and threatening suicide is often used by gamblers to get what they want and manipulate loved ones. But also gamblers do commit suicide as compulsive gambling is essentially a mental illness mixed with anxiety/ depression. What do you see in your brother is he depressed do you think ? Whilst I completely understand why both you and your parents bail him out it's called enabling as for him there is NO consequences to him losing money as someone bails him out that allows him to do it all over again. If you give gamblers money you have to assume that you will never see it again. It has to stop now , I inflicted damage when I was gambling of course I did but there have been consequences for me and rightfully so, I can't speak for your brother but I know that it was not intentional what I done I was caught in this big spiral I couldn't get out of. It stopped for me when my husband found out and now I'm glad he did just over 100 days since I last gambled and I gambled every day. I've had a lot of help to do this and it's paying off I'm happier calmer more stable. Me and my husband are still rocky but I'm trying to rebuild his trust in me , might never fully happen I understand that. I now attend GA every week if you could persuade your brother to go to your local GA meeting or even go on one on zoom there are lots available, he may be able to take that step willpower alone will not do it for him. Hope some of what I've said makes sense to you . I wish you all the best and hope you and your family find peace
This type of situation can be common for people living with addicts unfortunately. An addict will always push the boundaries to get their fix, if emotional blackmail helps that cause then so be it. The family or loved ones can clearly see there is a mental health issue and they burden themselves of the worry of the consequences should they cut the cord so to speak. This seems to be the situation you find yourself in.
The bad news is that you can only control your own actions. If he wants to get help then that is up to him, you can advice and demand until your blue in the face but bottom line its up to him to change. The same applies with your parents, you can advice and help them but unless they seek support instead of bailing him out constantly they will just enable his behaviour going forward.
My suggestion is to look up the GamAnon site (a support group for families and people affected by compulsive gamblers) and see what meetings they have, I think they have a weekly zoom meeting or similar which would be a great place to start.
Thank you all for your help and advice.
We know that the loan shark does exist, but there is nothing we can do to stop him borrowing from them. He has used them many times in the past and he keeps getting going back for more.
The issue is that if we pay the money, I know that he will find himself in exactly the same position in a few months time. If we don’t, my parents will be at risk.
He has admitted that he has a gambling problem, but he is reluctant to do anything about it. He attended 1 counselling session a few years back and then gave up and refused to go back. I have provided him with websites for help, given him books and everything that he needs to get help. He just won’t do it.
When he finds himself in this situation, he is very quick to acknowledge that he has a problem and he says that he will get help, but it never goes anywhere. I believe that he is truly depressed. He is out of the house most of the time, and when he is at home he shuts himself in his bedroom. There are times when he completely breaks down and he opens up to my parents about the mess he is in. But nothing ever materialises from it, just false promises.
We have also tried to take control of his finances, but he always backs out of that after a short time and ends up opening a new account and moving his salary into there. He also continues to borrow money from friends and loan sharks so it really has no impact.
I think that him living at home provides a safety net for him. He knows that he will always have food and somewhere to sleep and I don’t think he will ever truly hit rock bottom while he lives there. But getting him to move out doesn’t seem to be an option.
I will try passing details for gambling support/resources on to him again, and I’ll also lookup GamAnon for family support. I think that my parents would find this useful. I just hope that he takes the first step soon...
I am really sorry to hear about what you and your family are going through. Your brother's gambling is creating some serious damage in your family, especially for your parents.
I would second getting support for yourself via GamAnon and I would strongly urge you to get your parents to do the same as well.
Please also get in touch with the Loan Shark Helpline to discuss how you can keep your parents safe in this situation:
I would agree, that unless something changes nothing will change. It really sounds to me that it would be helpful for both yourself and your parents to call us so we can advise and support you on how to make changes for yourself, from your own perspective. As others said before - if he doesn't want to stop/is not ready to stop there is not much you can do about the gambling. But shifting the focus on self-care and finding the confidence to set boundaries, you and your parents will ultimately help your brother as well.
Please call us any time on 0808 8020 133 or chat to us online here: https://www.gamcare.org.uk/get-support/talk-to-us-now/
We are here 24/7 and we are here to support your parents as well, so they are very welcome to call as well. And of course your brother - when he is ready.
Wishing you all the very best,
this is what you should do, not him , you. Call stepchange, I have spoken to them on this particular topic, loan sharks, and they have great advice. Do not pay a loan shark. You pay , they want more. Sometimes they don’t even exist.
This is the harsh reality. You and your parents are enabling him. How has he been able to get hold of their money ? Making life normal and easy for a gambler is enabling. Paying debts, loans, their share of any expenses is enabling.
You need to impress upon him that he needs to pay his way, his own debts. He should be paying his debt to your parents, he should be paying rent. No excuses.
There is gamanon 7-9 tonight. You will get the best help and advice. Go to the website.
Think of it this way, if you carry on paying his debts and life expenses you may as well be gambling yourself. You are keeping him sick. This is affecting all the family, you are all ‘sick’ from this addiction.
This is serious, a mental health issue. Compulsive gambling is self medication for other problems. It’s addiction. You cannot get well without getting outside help.
You need to set a few boundaries with your brother. No more money, only emotional help and support. He can go online and find a GA meeting, all zoom if not physical meetings due to COVID. He needs to face this. He needs help.
Gamcare offer counselling to all, call them.
This will get worse if you don’t stop the cycle of bad behaviour. Financial help is making things continue. It’s tough, painful, frightening. You have to be strong. Get some help, support and advice from the organisations I’ve mentioned.
@sb123 Do you mind me asking how much he owes the loan shark and has he exhausted the payday loan and normal loan route?
Why would your parents be at risk, is this something a loan shark has told you himself or has it been communicated through your brother?
Do you think you could leave him to face his own consequences?
He currently owes just under £4000 to the loan shark. He says that it increased by £600 because he wasn’t able to pay.
He has exhausted normal avenues of borrowing. He has CCJs, and no legitimate lender would ever give him money. He has been through step change to agree repayment plans with his lenders, but he has also been unable to keep up with those are payments.
I don’t live in the same city, so I don’t know this loan shark but I think that my parents are aware of some in the area that he has borrowed money from before. From what I understand, violence and damage to property etc are all real risks and I think it has happened to others before. Of course, he could be making this all up but I don’t think that’s the case as he does seem a bit afraid of the consequences.
I realise that getting the police involved is an option, but I think it will make a bad situation worse and my parents may be forced to leave the area as a result.
I want to leave him to face the consequences, and I want him to leave their house for good. It’s just difficult when there could be a risk to my parent’s safety.
@sb123 I understand.. It's a really difficult situation for you and then and as easy as it is for me to say let him face the consequences, I also know that parents and family won't do that.. You see I was him I'm ashamed to say and the only time I faced the consequences was when everything ran out. But before that there was nothing I wouldn't say or do to get money to carry on, and I knew how your parents and you think. I would use those insecurities against you. The other thing was I believed the things I told people, so I didn't really know where the truth ended and the lies started. It all blurred into one.
Is there a strong male family member who could make him see he has to leave or be responsible for himself?
I fear that you are going to be stuck doing the same thing unless he hits a rock bottom moment and either call him out on this loan shark or let him deal with it. If this guy is real the only way I would pay it would be to see him in person. I wouldn't give your brother the money to give to him, I just wouldn't trust him. And if he is real, I'd make it clear that your brother is responsible for his own actions, not your parents, not you, just him.
You said he had a job so the other option is he pays the loan shark back weekly or monthly, whenever he is paid. He has to be responsible for the situation.
If it were me I would involve the police, all this is not going to change, you pay back this loan then there will be another one. I would talk to your parents about what you have discovered about addiction and how you all need support as this is taking over your lives.
I would let them know that you will no longer help pay back any debt for him and if they choose to do so they are simply enabling his addiction. Let them know also that if you hear about money owed to loan sharks in future you will be calling the police. Let them all know you are there for emotional support but not financial from now on. You cannot control your brother or his actions and you cannot control your parents or their actions, but you can control your own actions. You are also enabling this, it's time to stop.
I get that you want your brother you either get help or face the consequences himself rather than ramp up the pressure and stress onto your parents but this is the real world. It's not a nice situation which will probably get worse before it gets better but something has to give sooner or later.
With such a mess going on it is vital you seek support and I would see GamAnon as a must for you.