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Fathers, sons and gambling… a generational dilemma

This Father’s Day, our insights executive Andy Margett (pictured above with sons Liam, 14, and Joel, 17) reflects on the choice he has to make as a parent, having been through problem gambling and now reaching a point in life where his eldest children can legally start to gamble…

Many moons ago (ok 1994/95), I was a skinny, awkward teenager trying to stand out at one of the toughest comprehensive schools in Derby, England. It was a good mix of us from the council estate, with a fair amount of kids from the new private estate built onto the end of ours. There was no envy from us – we pretty much for the most part mixed well. 

Kicking a football round at dinner, giving each other stick, daring each other to ‘tango’ someone (think the advert) – we wanted to do everything adults did: smoke, drink, and gamble.

Back then, our education on smoking, drinking and drugs were pretty much a teacher telling us in an assembly: ‘IT’S BAD, DON’T DO THIS, DON’T DO THAT’. Obviously, being teenage lads, pretty much all of us would take this as a challenge to do it. Sending the tallest person in (wispy tache optional) to get ten Royals, going round whoever’s house when parents were at work to raid their drinks cabinet at dinner time, and in my case – nipping into bookies [sportsbook] after school and having a quick bet.

I learned to gamble from my dad. He still loves having a bet on the horses, and even though I shouldn’t have been doing it back then – along with drinking 20/20 and Special Red down the park – he and my mam knew full well that’s what kids did; they were kids themselves previously.

Now, people know my story of what I did, and where I am today, thanks to my work with EPIC, where I explain my journey through various stages of gambling harm to a variety of audiences across the UK, and most recently, Europe.

I’m a father to three wonderful children, with the eldest about to leave school and start work, meaning that he’s reaching the legal age when he can start to do all those things that I shouldn’t have been doing as a teenager. When I go round to schools delivering education or if I’m staying overnight somewhere and I strike up conversation what I do for a living – the question I get asked the most is:

‘Will you let your kids gamble when they are old enough?’

For some in recovery, they might find it tricky – we don’t want our kids to go through what we did. I’m not going to stop them if they choose to; I can’t protect them in bubble wrap all their lives. Most of those who have asked the question respond “that’s fair” – the reason being that we were all kids once; we push the boundaries in life.

Andy Margett with sons Joel and Liam

My boys know my story, I give them that informed choice. As parents (or teachers) that’s what we should do – give them that information of what could happen if they place that bet or choose to gamble. Maybe, just maybe, if education on alcohol, drugs, smoking, and gambling was holistic back in the 90s, I may have understood the potential harms a little bit more – thinking before I took a drag, a sip of cider or placed that bet.

As a parent though, I will not stand in the way of my kids making their own personal choices in life – if they want to gamble, I can’t stop them from doing so. We can’t prohibit them from their freedoms. It creates more harm than good.

That’s something we know from the delivery we undertake around the world, all year round. The more you tell someone not to do something, the greater the temptation for them to do it.

By sharing our lived experience as we do, and sharing the answer to the ‘what if?’ question of the worst case scenarios, that hopefully better equips someone to make their own informed decision on their relationship with gambling, or any other potentially addictive product.

Visit the ‘Our Solutions’ page within our website for a better idea of how we share our lived experience with audiences around the world to help the next generation to learn from the issues of our past.

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