It's in our DNA to take a risk. Every day, whether it's gambling on a slot machine or riding a skateboard, we engage in activities that have both a risk and a reward.
The surge of dopamine motivates us to take these risks. The same pleasurable reward pathways in our brains are activated by this feel-good hormone as when we eat our favorite cuisine or have sex.
Gambling can be a thrilling pastime, but it can also lead to addiction, losses, and even tragedies. The stories of Terrance Watanabe, Andros Townsend, Craig Walding, Koen Everink, and Justyn Larcombe are a cautionary reminder of the dark side of gambling.
Terrance Watanabe, known as "the biggest whale" in Las Vegas history, made fast work of his multi-million-dollar wealth gambling and drinking in casinos. In 2007, his betting spree peaked, and he went on a record-breaking losing streak, gambling away $825 million. His total spending amassed to an astounding 5.6% of the casino company's total revenue that year. Caesars ultimately sued and pressed felony charges against Terrance for his unpaid bill, which was settled out of court with Terrance agreeing to pay back $100,000 of the $15 million owed.
Andros Townsend, a professional football player in the English Premier League, developed a worrying gambling habit early in his career. At the height of his addiction, he admitted that when he arrived at Birmingham on loan, he couldn't even afford the hotel parking lot costs to sleep in his car. In 2013, he was charged by The Football Association on 76 counts of gambling charges. He received a 4-month ban, a $25,000 fine, and court-ordered counseling. Rather than ruining his career, he was caught and forced into therapy, which was a pivotal turning point in his life.
Craig Walding's love of sports turned into a full-fledged gambling addiction in March 2020, after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The 27-year-old native of Whitchurch, England, accrued a debt of over $55,000 in a month, having lost almost $30,000 in one night alone. His addiction quickly took over his life, and all his savings. He lost everything and, chasing the losses, kept gambling, borrowing money, and getting even more into debt. At his lowest point, Craig admitted he considered taking his own life but instead turned to family and friends, who were able to help him get the help he needed.
Koen Everink, a 42-year-old businessman who made his millions as the founder and director of the travel company Eliza was here, was found dead in his home by his six-year-old daughter, who'd heard his screams. He had been stabbed to death, and police quickly found a suspect, Mark de Jong, who at the time was the head coach to top tennis player Robin Haase. De Jong had borrowed thousands of euros from Everink to fuel his gambling addiction, and the judge found him guilty of murder. He was also charged for the theft of one of Everink's valuable watches and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Justyn Larcombe went from having a beautiful wife, two kids, and a home in Tunbridge Wells to living in Kent with his mother in just three years. In 2009, the ex-military major placed a small bet of $7 on a rugby match, but the thrill soon caught on and spiraled out of control. Justyn's gambling addiction cost him his family, his home, and his job. He eventually sought help, went through therapy, and now helps others who suffer from gambling addiction.
These stories illustrate the importance of responsible gambling and the dangers of addiction. If you or someone you know struggles with gambling addiction, seek help immediately. It's never too late to get your life back on track.
See more: Degenerate gambling stories