I was an online gambling addict – I wanted to take my life at 19 but now I'm saving others | The Sun

TWO FORMER gambling addicts have turned their losses into gains by starting a tech business to help other affected people.

Jack Symons is the founder and CEO of Gamban, an app that blocks thousands of gambling and stock trading sites to benefit individuals struggling with gambling addiction.

Symons and Matt Zarb-Cousin, his partner in GamBan, were tens of thousands of dollars in debt according to a spokesperson.

“Just before I turned 20, I really wanted to take my own life," Zarb-Cousin explained in a post for the Addictions Provider Alliance. "I don’t think it was about the money.

"It was about where the addiction had led me to. Gambling had distracted me from my life for so long."

Problem gamblers are the most at-risk individuals when it comes to self-harm.

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A 2017 study found that one in five gambling addicts attempt suicide, higher than any other addiction disorder.

Symons told The Sun that casual gamblers can be a family tragedy, work-related incident, or adrenaline hunt away from crossing the threshold to problem gambling.

"It culminated for me with one big win, something around $35,000 in one spin of a slot machine," Symons told The Sun in an exclusive interview. "I think I was kind of both unlucky and lucky in equal measure on that night."

The state of play

The United States is rather taken with gambling – in Arizona's first three months of legal digital gambling, Arizonians wagered $1.2billion.

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Content machines like Barstool Sports made their mark by producing gambling content while legacy media outlets plaster wagering odds into on-screen graphics.

Meanwhile, new gambling start-ups are popping up every day trying to gain footing in the $60billion dollar industry.

The silent epidemic has an estimated two million Americans addicted to gambling, and millions of people abroad are struggling with the same issue.

Over the last seven years, Symons has been refining GamBan, an app and web plug-in that blocks tens of thousands of gambling and gambling-adjacent sites for problem gamblers for a small fee.

The Gamban engine

GamBan runs on proprietary technology to block gambling sites without being invasive.

Available on all platforms, GamBan is meant to supplement other treatment options for gambling addiction.

During his own struggles, Symons downgraded his cell phone to a Nokia clamshell – while effective, few are going to be able to sacrifice a smartphone no matter how deep into debt their gambling addiction has led them.

"There's a tradeoff between being able to have the technology that I need and being able to have that device free from the tyranny of constant temptation," Symons said.

The app is made to be deliberately difficult to uninstall. On iOS, deleting the app from the home screen will not lift the restrictions.

Crypto-wager

Later in GamBan's evolution, they reached a crossroads when it came to stock trading apps and gamified crypto platforms.

Studies showed that most people considered it gambling, but the deciding factor was the company's correspondence with a gambling addiction hotline.

Workers for GamCare, a gambling addiction hotline, told the company that callers were regretting commitments to gamified trading platforms and cryptocurrencies.

GamBan even blocks Robinhood, the common trading platform with almost no barriers to entry.

Inexperienced traders can engage in complex transactions without fully understanding their mechanics. "Typical trading on these platforms doesn't look like a well-executed, responsible trading," Symons said.

Symons and the GamBan team also found "a lot of the crypto platforms that allow you to gamble with crypto."

They determined it was "essentially gambling on your gambling" and blocked access for GamBan users.

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The Biden administration has been tight-lipped about the federal government's general position on gambling and has mostly focused on shutting down illegal sports books. Legal or not, one thing is certain:

"They say the house always wins and that is 100% true," Symons concluded.

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