THEIR son Lewis took his own life three years ago after a prolonged gambling addiction. It’s only now that parents Pete and Sadie Keogh have the strength to talk about it.
“Addiction to anything is bad, but addiction to gambling is cruel,” said the couple who have been through so much since they received the sad news of their son’s death on November 1st 2013.
The couple admit it has taken them quite a while to be really strong enough to do anything after their son’s tragic death.
In the last three years they have been looking and researching to find out more about the deadly killer which took their son.
“It’s not recognised. It’s a hidden problem. You’re actually very healthy looking and my son was still doing all the things he had been doing, working, playing football and managing a team, but behind it all there was a second life,” explained Sadie.
Over this time they came in contact a group called SOSAD (Save our Sons and Daughters) which has an office in Cavan. They then found a pressure group on the internet called 38 degrees.
“They had launched a campaign to put extra pressure on the government to change the rules on gambling machines and advertising and they wanted us to meet with the Minister, Tracey Crouch.”
“There was us and another man, Anthony Franklin, an ex-gambler. He had been through hell and back a couple of times and had lost his family through gambling.
“He told us of how he started on gaming machines and progressed to what are called FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) where you can put £100 in every 20 seconds!.
“It is a crazy amount of money you can just throw away,” remarked Pete.
Sadie, who has also done research since her son’s death, said that Lewis would have been the same, probably starting when he was at school in Enniskillen.
“Coming from the bus, he, like so many other kids, would have frequented a gaming arcade. There, he and his friends played the one armed bandits. We weren’t aware and we still weren’t aware of gambling addiction whenever he died,” said Sadie.
“We knew people had gambling problems, but it is like being on crack cocaine when you become addicted we’ve been told. We were so ignorant and didn’t realise but there are very few statistics. However, we have learned that when it gets to that stage it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about getting a fix,” she added.
Pete said, “We were told that gamblers don’t care about winning. They just want the buzz. That’s what Lewis had gone through. “I wish he had sat down and talked to us, but he kept his struggle hidden.
“We had to delve and raise awareness for others,” they said. Now Pete and Sadie realise that gambling addiction is one of the big killers in the world today.
They warn that parents need to monitor from a very early age.
“Gambling is like addiction to alcohol, like addiction to drugs. It is a killer. Few know or realise about it because it’s hidden.”
He added, “If by doing this we help save just one family from having to through what we’ve gone through then it is worth it.”
“We both live with guilt. It’s just a matter of learning to live with it. It’s coping because you never get over it. We both realise that we’ll never get over Lewis’ death. Some days are difficult and some are bearable,” said Pete.
Sadie spent time researching gambling adverts on television and on line and admitted it was ‘scary’. “Every day I researched I got an emil offering me anything from £5 to £500 and one day I was offered a £3,000 free stake to join online.
“We’re intent on getting this out to people in Northern Ireland and Fermanagh and the rest of the country. They have got to know how dangerous it is,” said Pete.
“We’re only very small cogs in the wheel, but the minister impressed us both. She was sympathetic and understanding and also very knowledgeable. She has a lot of work to do because gambling is simply out of control and the gambling lobby is very powerful.”
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