“You come to think about stealing and committing crimes to play”
Lande Ruiz Fernandez He played roulette for the first time when he was just 18 years old. The young man, from Almáchar, wanted to celebrate coming of age and decided to go to the Torrequebrada Casino in Benalmádena in the company of his group of friends. Ruiz knew about the place from an acquaintance who was dedicated to betting on poker. His compadres and he just had a laugh. This time he did not go beyond that.
However, some time later he returned to play. This resident of Malaga took up sports betting with friends as a hobby and got used to going to the gaming halls alone. “There are people who take it as a hobby without knowing how far that can go. I have played everything: sports betting, horse racing, online gambling, “he laments. The game almost destroyed his life and took him away from his loved ones, in addition to having a debt of 50,000 euros.
Lande is one of 400 people with a serious pathological addiction to gambling, known as compulsive gambling, which each year treats the Amalajer Association. This association from Malaga, which is self-financed thanks to its members’ fees, provides a fundamental service to the community at its headquarters on Avenida del Obispo Ángel Herrera Oria: it offers two-year treatment to these people and their relatives through group therapies and psychologists.
The philosophy of the Malaga Association of Rehabilitation Gamblers is based on three fundamental pillars: serenity to accept the things we can’t change, valor to change the ones we can and wisdom in order to tell the difference. One can see it written in an embroidery, which hangs on one of the walls of the building full of posters against the betting houses.
The young man from Malaga, who has been in therapy since February, is willing to speak with EL ESPAÑOL from Malaga one afternoon at the headquarters. “I am happier with myself and I feel calmer. My family and my partner are better. When you tell about your problem it is a radical change. Gambling is something we have to live with for the rest of our lives.“, recognize.
-Did it cost you much to approach the association?
-At first I was very afraid of what they would say. With the passage of time I understood that this fear is an excuse for not facing your problem. Everyone when they come here for the first time is very afraid.
The former university student with a stable job visited the association for the first time four years ago. “I came to shut up those around her. My girlfriend and I looked for her on the internet. Since I didn’t believe anything that what I had was a disease, I came for five months and played a role“He admits. Later he continued betting in gambling halls and his addiction went from less to more.
When Lande went to the association, he decided to ban himself so that he would not be allowed to enter a betting house (you can ask the administration by filling out paperwork or online). Still, the young man entered. “There is a whole business around this. Younger people come in and they sell them alcohol. Sometimes they don’t ask for your ID. Two years ago they were entering betting houses forging my identity card. Or I gave a fake one and they didn’t physically ask me for it“, he assures.
He was also cheating on his girlfriend. “She would throw me three days without showing up at home and leave her mobile off. Sometimes she bet a lot of money. One day she had 6,000 euros in her bank account and the next nothing. She smelled something,” she says. When the confinement arrived, he discovered the world of online betting, a jungle for gambling addicts, and it did him “a lot of damage.”
“I could go online and spend 3,000 euros in thousandths of a second. It sounds harsh. You can even come to think about stealing, asking for money and committing crimes to play. This is like the drug. It is still an addiction like tobacco, drugs, alcohol. You are very happy when you win, but you are not winning anything because you lose every minute. I can remember very little the times I won,” she laments.
This man from Malaga returned to the Amalajer Association for the second time in February 2021 with moral and financial debts, and his life “totally destroyed”. “With a very bad situation at the level of money and with my family and my friends fatal. The relationship with my partner almost ended. I was bad and without knowing what to do”, this boy with a stable job and a “fixed” payroll is honest .
Homeless and about to commit suicide
“They caught me taking out a loan of 20.00 euros. I have come to have a debt of 50,000. Today they give you very easy money, “he warns. This young man in treatment has been able to ask for help; others do not have the same luck. “There are people who are having a very bad time. I have had teammates who have tried to commit suicide because of the game and to this day they are still alive. Others have lost their home“, laments.
What made you lose the game?
-Today the issue of money does not matter to me. Money comes and goes. And I will pay the consequences. Worst of all: moral debts. Losing friends, family and even almost the couple. You can lose a whole life and be left alone. I am lucky to have a family behind me. I’m thankful.
The Amalajer Association also transmits a philosophy very similar to that of Cholo Simeone, that of game by game, at each meeting. “Just for today I will try to get through the day without expecting to solve the problem of my whole life in a moment,” reads another of the embroideries at the headquarters. Lande now feels that he is taking control of his life thanks to the association.
He has learned everything there. She has even completely changed his life (be it behavior, attitudes). “I feel calm and I know what I want. When I do things, I decide for myself. When I played I let myself be carried away by my feelings, my impulses and some friends. You play because you want to. It’s like when everyone but you drinks. I don’t want to compare it, but something like that,” she explains.
The relatives and close loved ones also see it better because that young man did not decide for himself because of the addiction, nor did he express his feelings. “The game makes you lose everything, even your own life. There are many people who are not aware of all this. And neither does society “, she reproaches.
The 28-year-old from Malaga believes that the game is “very normalized” in Spanish society. “Since we were little they encouraged us to do it. To play, play, play. Today there are also the plays, the little machines. Right now we are already in the Christmas campaign and they have released the Lottery ad touching on the sentimental theme. It is very normalized that we have to play. In addition, this disease is not made as visible as cancer,” he gives as an example.
He suicide it has become the leading cause of unnatural death in Spain; and pathological addiction to gambling, known as pathological gambling, in the third cause when someone takes their own life. “It is a problem that mainly affects young people. I know of many who continue to play. every solution is little. Imagine what can happen to a young man without resources and without help,” he emphasizes.
From 2018 until now, few things have changed in legal matters. Thanks to Alberto Garzón’s decree, approved this year, gambling advertising It can only be shown on television, radio and platforms such as YouTube one to five in the morning. “Likewise, excessively aggressive advertisements continue to be seen at other times. There are a lot of young people who see them. that they continue to limit“, encourages this former player who lives in an area of Málaga with betting houses, some less than 100 meters from schools.
The rehabilitation process is long, he says, but his life depends on it. He goes twice a week to therapy to the association and his companion once. They also have therapy so that they understand how they are and how they have to act in the face of a problem of such magnitude. After 40 minutes of talk, Lande says goodbye with a very clear message: “They are very wrong. It’s a pretty tough addiction. There are many people who come here very badly. It doesn’t matter if you are young, old or female. Don’t hesitate to come.”
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