In mid-2005, when I was serving my National Service, I had a lot of free time. At night, after training I spent most of my time playing computer games or lazing around. I always had an interest in football, and took pride in the knowledge I had of the game  the tactics, players, results. 

Feeling the need for some excitement, for the first time in my life, I walked to a nearby Singapore Pools outlet to place my first $5 bet on a football match. 

Over time, as I mixed with fellow gamblers in camp, I realised that the odds offered on online betting sites were better, and the range of categories to place a bet on was wider. I signed up for an account and placed large portions of my hard-earned NS allowance on it.

And that was it.

Anyone who’s been addicted to gambling knows how it goes. You win a few rounds, you feel unbeatable. You lose a few rounds and you somehow hold on to the belief that you will win it all back the next round – that you’ll at least break even. 

The reality is this: A gambler driven by greed will not be satisfied being in a net-zero position. There will come a time when you say to yourself: “I’ll place this huge bet, that I will either win back what I have lost, and more, or regret not trying.” 

And the cycle perpetuates itself. What’s more, with online gambling, the bet is only one click away.

The odds are never in your favour. You are already swimming against the current before you even begin.

Of course, any gambler worth his salt develops a system to win, to overcome the odds. I churned out spreadsheets, filled with matchday information. I critically analysed any potential information gaps which would give me an edge over the bookies when I placed my bet.

This sounds a bit like the stock market, right? There are many who make impulsive shares purchases. I guess that if driven by greed, even such investment platforms can be viewed as gambling. But with online gambling, instead of being driven by pure market forces, the odds are never in your favour, already set beforehand by the bookmakers. 

So you are already swimming against the current before you even begin. 

My entire life was consumed by online gambling. I was always worried when a match was on, because I had a $1,000 bet riding on the outcome. I remember visiting my sister in Hong Kong with my family, but sneaking to the corner with my laptop to swallow in the odds for the upcoming matches to place my bets. 

Family and friends could not understand why I seemed to always be lost in my own world, and best by mood swings – particularly after I lost a large bet the previous night.

It was no longer about the money, but just the “itchy” feeling, the need to bet on something, anything. I placed bets on which team would win the next corner, who would win the next America Idol.

The debts I had ran into the thousands, but what was most heartbreaking for me was my conscience screaming to me to acknowledge the fact that I was addicted to gambling and I needed help. 

I tried to quit a few times, but just kept going back. There was one match where I threw $1,000 on a team to not lose a match at the odds of 1.10. In added time, in the 93rd minute of the match, the opponent scored to win the game and I lost the bet. 

I lay in my room and wondered where it all went wrong with my life, and if my life was worth living.

It was then that I heard a still small voice speaking to me: “Why not go back to Church?” 

I was brought up in a Christian home, but never knew who Christ was. I had left the Church about a year before that. So I told myself I must be dreaming and went to sleep. 

But the next day, an old friend of mine who had joined me in gambling that the past year contacted me. He had stopped gambling and had a new lease on life after coming to know Christ, and now he asked me if I was interested in going to his Church. 

As a bettor, I knew this: I had nothing to lose. Looking back now, I’ve come to realise: I had everything to gain. 

During the service, I acknowledged that I was addicted to gambling and I asked Jesus to help me. And so I received Him into my life. 

As a bettor, I knew this: I had nothing to lose. Looking back now, I’ve come to realise: I had everything to gain. 

Almost immediately, I felt a burden lift off my shoulders, and I could smile again. And immediately, I was able to stop gambling immediately – I was freed by the power of Christ.

The Church community also helped me a lot. They accepted my past and their presence as friends and brothers in Christ encouraged me, knowing that I was not alone. We share our struggles and keep each other in prayer. It would have been much harder leaving my gambling lifestyle behind if not for their support and encouragement.

I know that the urge to gamble can be tempting. Online gambling makes it merely a click away, and thus takes more effort to resist. 

My experience tells me that the key for anyone involved in online gambling is to acknowledge that they have a problem. Then seek help – if possible from ex-gamblers who have come through this, because this is not something easily understood by the man on the street.

The temptation has always remained for me. In times where I’ve felt tempted to enter a gambling site, one verse in particular strengthens me and reminds me of God’s love for me. 

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)