IT started with a football bet aged 16. All Martin Paterson had heard were stories of people winning and he thought he’d have a punt.

But ever since then, the 63-year-old insists gambling has brought nothing but misery to him and his family.

For 40-plus years, he was addicted to chasing the next win, but even when wins came, the shame of being seen as a gambler meant he would never declare it. He’d take the next day off work and gamble it all again.  

He would lose 12 hours wages on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs] in five minutes. He once stole money from his son while he was away on a stag weekend just to keep his chase funded.

“I didn’t understand what was going on. I would tell myself I wasn’t going into the bookmakers that day and then after a 10 hour shift you would go in and chance it,” Paterson, who stays in Coatbridge, told The National.

“I’d have to borrow money and do all sorts of things to try and cover up my tracks. The effect that was having on my family and friends and people who employed me was horrendous.

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"All it's ever done is bring misery to me and my family.

“Eventually I stole off my son. He was away for the weekend and I had been in his bedroom and stole money off him. My mindset was I was borrowing it, and I was going to put it back, I wasn’t stealing it.

“The stress on my family was horrendous. I shudder even thinking about it.”

In the end, a tragedy was what made Paterson realise he had to stop. In 2014, his son died of a heart attack aged 29.

After years of going to Gamblers Anonymous meetings, it was the sting of realising he hadn’t been the dad he wanted to be that brought him out of the fog of addiction.

Paterson added: “It made me realise I wasn’t there when that boy needed me. I hadn’t been a god father.

“I had a relapse in 2017, but ever since then I’ve been good.”

Now Paterson - who has a daughter and teenage grandson - is on a mission to raise awareness of the damage gambling can do. He came up with the idea of making a brutally honest documentary called One Last Spin, telling his story along with those of other recovering addicts in a bid to deglamourise the habit.

The film – which was screened in Inverkip last week – also involved three people working to reduce gambling harms; academic Gerda Reith, Scotland Reducing Gambling Harms manager William Griffiths, and SNP MP Ronnie Cowan who sits on the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) focusing on gambling related harm.

But while Paterson admits he feels guilt and shame for the cycle he got into, he knows it’s not all his fault.

The National: Martin Paterson, 63, wants the UK Government to ban all gambling advertising and get serious on stake limitsMartin Paterson, 63, wants the UK Government to ban all gambling advertising and get serious on stake limits (Image: NQ)

In his hometown of Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire there are more than 20 bookmakers, along with several amusement arcades and bingo halls. The town – once known as the industrial heartland of Scotland - has the same population as the more affluent nearby areas of Bearsden and Milngavie, but they only have one bookmaker each.

At football matches, the marketing is inescapable, with adverts for betting companies on players’ shirts and all around stadiums, but you’re much less likely to see this saturation at golf tournaments or rugby union matches.

Paterson believes this is all part of a system designed to lure the working man into the vicious cycle of gambling, not to mention how everyone these days has instant access to bookmakers on their smartphones.

He is calling on the UK Government to get rid of gambling advertising - as has happened with tobacco - as well as introduce stricter stake limits on online slot machines and FOBTs.

The maximum stake on FOBTs is currently £2 – reduced from £100 in 2019 - but online slot machines are unlimited despite carrying some of the highest rates of addiction for any gambling product.

The UK Government launched its latest white paper on proposed gambling reforms last month which includes plans such as affordability checks and limited stakes of between £2 and £15 for online slot machines.

But Paterson insists it doesn’t go far enough with no plans to restrict advertising, while he branded the stake limits proposal as “unbelievable”, suggesting people could still lose vast amounts of money in no time at all.

He said: “I don’t enjoy watching football. I’ve got a thing with my grandson where every time we see a gambling advert we say ‘f*** sake not another one’.

“It’s such a trigger for so many in recovery [advertising]. They [the UK Government’s white paper] never even mentioned the advertising and that is the main grooming factor of people gambling. It’s 24/7.

“I feel the adverts and sports sponsorship should be removed the same way as tobacco was.”

The white paper is now being call the “wet paper” by those campaigning for stricter laws because it has been delayed several times since a review of regulations was launched in 2020.

Postponing gambling legislation would appear to be a familiar habit at Westminster, given that Tory MP Tracy Crouch resigned her ministerial post in 2018 after delays to introducing the £2 maximum stake on FOBTs.

The UK Government has now put out its latest proposals to consultation again, which Tory MPs have raised concerns about. Iain Duncan Smith warned that putting out so many measures to consultation was “tantamount to doing nothing”.

Paterson said: “The white paper is now [being called] the wet paper, [because] it’s been kicked into the long grass.

“They’re wanting consultations again and in Scotland we’ve got no devolved power [over this] either.

“The wet paper is talking about a stake [for online slot machines] of between £2 and £15 which is unbelievable.

“I just always think, is the gambling industry always going to be one step ahead?

“I’ll always feel a certain amount of guilt and shame, but I know it’s not all my fault. This is a public health issue, the same way as tobacco was. It’s a tragic mental health crisis.”

A Department for Media, Culture and Sport spokesperson said: “We want to protect those most at risk of gambling-related harm while allowing those that want to gamble to do so safely.

"There are already robust rules in place to ensure gambling advertising is socially responsible. As part of our plans the Premier League has also committed to a front of shirt sponsorship ban from the end of the 2025/26 season.

"We're also working on tightening rules further to prevent aggressive practices from gambling operators which may be targeting customers in harmful ways."