Gambling: How to lose £2m: your 10-step guide

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The Independent Online

How does anyone lose a couple of million quid at the bookies? What are the odds of an ordinary person being allowed to run up such debts? Very high, to judge from the story of Graham Calvert, 28, a greyhound trainer from Sunderland. He is suing bookmakers William Hill in the High Court tomorrow for continuing to take his bets even when he asked the company to ban him.

Mr Calvert lost £2m. His wife and two young children no longer live with him. "It was irresponsible of William Hill to exploit me," he said last Thursday. "It has ruined my life. It was like taking heroin."

William Hill says it has no case to answer and it will contest the legal claim "vigorously". So how could he lose that much? We present a 10-step programme for turning a mild gambling addiction into an apocalyptic loss.

Step 1: have some money in the first place: Mr Calvert had £700,000 in the bank.

Step 2: start small(ish). According to interviews last week, he began in August 2005 with £1,000-a-time on a horse or dog.

Step 3: up the stakes – in Mr Calvert's case to £20,000 a race.

Step 4: win sometimes. These addictions are fed by success.

Step 5: don't quit while you're ahead.

Step 6: make life easier, so it won't feel like real money. Mr Calvert opened a telephone account with William Hill in May 2006. A few weeks later he asked to close it, having found gambling by phone "too easy".

If you ban yourself, as punters do when they sign a self-exclusion form, then your are ready for the next step.

Step 7: work around it. Mr Calvert opened a second account. He will argue in court that he should not have been allowed to do so.

Step 8: go for broke. He borrowed £1.5m and bet in cash.

Step 9: is one huge, defining wager. Like £347,000 on the US to win the Ryder Cup. They lost.

A few months later, in December 2006, he finally sought help. Step 10, for those skipping past on the road to ruin, is never to seek help and never listen to your mother either. A woman in Bournemouth has asked bookmakers to ban her son after he blew £100,000.

One grey area on losing a fortune is whether to pay by cheque. You might actually get away with it. An Arab businessman bought roulette chips at a London casino with two cheques worth £6.7m. They bounced. Eight years later, the money has still not been paid. The casino took the cheques because he had already bought chips worth £150m.

Which brings us back to step one: to lose a large fortune, have a small one first. That way the bookmaker or croupier will be pleased to tell Sir or Madam that all bets are most definitely on.

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