A gambling addict who played online slots for 14 hours a day finds a ‘new purpose’ by creating a website blocker to help others kick their habits

A former gambling addict who lost tens of thousands of pounds playing online slots for 14 hours a day has now created a site blocker to help other gamers kick the habit.

Jack Symons, 35, was just 14 when he started gambling online and admits he became desensitized to financial loss.

After beating his addiction in 2016, he has since launched a website blocker, Gamban, as he says he struggled to find a proper way to stop himself from accessing gambling sites.

Jack created Gamban in 2017. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Jack, who lives in Southampton with his wife, 35-year-old designer Emma, ​​said: “I first discovered online poker when I was 14 and started to get good at it.

“My parents didn’t realize I was playing, from their perspective it looked like I was just playing, and for a long time I was a very responsible player.

“By the time I went to college, I was playing poker a lot and withdrawing my winnings to the bank.”

Jack started playing when he was only 14 years old.  (Collect/PA Real Life)

Jack started playing when he was only 14 years old. (Collect/PA Real Life)

But Jack says he was tempted by other games advertised on gambling sites.

“Ads for other casino-type games that are faster and more volatile were popping up while I was playing poker…like blackjack and slots,” he said.

“I started getting addicted to them and the gambling addiction took over.”

He added: “With these games, it’s quite scary how you can have the opportunity to lose a lot of money very quickly.

“I found myself in a gambling trap.”

On a losing streak, Jack admits he would increase his bets in an attempt to break even.

Jack created Gamban to help other people struggling to quit gambling.  (Collect/PA Real Life)

Jack created Gamban to help other people struggling to quit gambling. (Collect/PA Real Life)

“I would just put more and more money into it,” he said.

“It wasn’t as much as other players, at first it was around £100 per session.

“It would make me sick to lose that much, but I got to a point where my tolerance for loss was increasing. I just felt numb.

Jack hopes his site blocker will help other players trying to quit.  (Collect/PA Real Life)

Jack hopes his site blocker will help other players trying to quit. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I remember losing £300 all at once and realizing it all added up.”

Jack estimates he lost tens of thousands of pounds during his gambling addiction, but things came to a head in 2016.

“I won a jackpot one night of £30,000 and it made me such a buzz,” he said.

He added: “But the app needed me to increase my stake significantly in order to withdraw the money.

“Suddenly I was betting huge amounts of money just to get my jackpot and it looked like very dangerous territory.

“It was the wake-up call I needed and I feel lucky to have peeked into the abyss rather than falling into it and hitting rock bottom.”

By the time he went to college, Jack was playing online poker regularly.  (Collect/PA Real Life)

By the time he went to college, Jack was playing online poker regularly. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Determined to quit gambling, Jack installed site blockers and parental controls on his laptop and phone.

“I would use the parental control features to block gambling sites with a password that only my dad would know, but it turned out to be very restrictive,” he said.

“If I needed to do anything technical or change my computer settings, I had to call my dad to get the password. It just wasn’t practical.

Jack says other site blockers haven't worked well for him.  (Collect/PA Real Life)

Jack says other site blockers haven’t worked well for him. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “It would also block keywords. For example, restaurant websites were blocked if they served chips because casinos were selling them.

“Sites selling things like fire poker would be banned because of the word ‘poker’.

“After trying different software, I realized that there was really nothing available that matched what I needed.”

Unable to find a useful site blocker, Jack decided to create his own.

“I didn’t want it to be intrusive,” he said.

“I wanted it to be something someone could install and then forget about.”

Jack now works full time at Gamban.  (Collect/PA Real Life)

Jack now works full time at Gamban. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “It would only specifically block gambling sites and otherwise allow you to use your device as normal.”

Working on the first version of Gamban, Jack met Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former gambling addict and director of the non-profit organization Clean Up Gambling.

“We started chatting on social media and we just clicked – he came on board to create Gamban in 2016 and the first version launched the following year,” Jack said.

Gamban is free for people in the UK via TalkBanStop.  (Collect/PA Real Life)

Gamban is free for people in the UK via TalkBanStop. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added, “A year later, the full version was released.”

But Jack realized that the software would need consistent updates.

“For the first two years it was free to use, but we quickly realized we couldn’t let it go now that it was working,” he said.

He added: “Gaming sites would try to use ways to circumvent the blocker and it had to be updated regularly.”

Gamban now costs £24.99 per year, but can be downloaded for free in the UK via TalkBanStop, which is a partnership between gambling support organizations GamCare, Gamban and GamStop.

“It’s not about profit, it’s not a very profitable business, but the fees mean we can keep the software up to date and working,” Jack explained.

He added: “Knowing that I help other players who may be in a similar situation to where I was, that’s why I made it my full-time job. It gave me a purpose.

“Beating addiction can be a daunting task and Gamban is the first step towards self-exclusion, helping people in recovery regain control of their lives.”

For more information, visit: www.gamban.com

Comments are closed.