Addiction, anxiety and affordability checks: Martin Lycka’s Safe Bet Show with Brian Hatch

The harsh truths of gambling addiction were laid bare in Martin Lycka’s latest Safe Bet Show, in which Brian Hatch, host of All In: The Addicted Gambler’s Podcast, outlined just how far gamblers will go to get their fix. 

Expressing to Lycka that problem gamblers “can’t control themselves”, Hatch used his lived experience with addiction, which is detailed in his podcast with over 332 episodes, to explain how preventative measures such as blanket affordability checks can make a difference. 

In contrast to the comedy endured in the Monty Python film, Lycka questioned Hatch on his own “Life of Brian” – a battle with gambling addiction that started in 2000, when fresh-faced college student Hatch won his first game of blackjack. 

As is the case with most problem gamblers, Hatch was “hooked straight away”. His addiction led him to neglect his education as he would drive over two and a half hours to his nearest casino instead of attending his classes. 

Around three months into his gambling activity, Hatch recognised his addiction but was almost too afraid to speak up, even calling a helpline under the guise of writing a paper on problem gambling to identify himself as an addict.  

Despite this call for help, Hatch continued to gamble and was eventually kicked out of college for his poor attendance which was fuelled by his addiction. Hatch revealed to Lycka that “winning definitely brought me back”.

Seven years into his addiction, Hatch attended his first Gamblers Anonymous meeting before attending a second in 2009. Although Hatch praised the organisation by stressing that his visits were “worth it”, the initial meeting had left him feeling unwelcome, anxious and uncomfortable. 

Hatch continued: “The first meeting I went to, there were three other people. All of them were about 20 to 25 years older than me. I was uncomfortable as a 24 year old kid. It was in a cold church basement.

“It wasn’t welcoming and I had a lot of anxiety. So I went to the first meeting, but I did not go back to the second meeting. The third, the fourth took me another year and a half to go to my second meeting. And when I went to that meeting, that’s the one that made a difference for me.”

This notion of anxiety when speaking out has certainly encouraged Hatch in recent years, as his podcast was born out of an idea to let problem gamblers see other sufferers speak out about their feelings in the hope of encouraging them to do the same. 

All In: The Addicted Gambler’s Podcast has been running since January 2015, allowing Hatch to discuss topics of gambling addiction with clinicians, academics, public health workers, RG managers and the lived experience community. 

Through his own personal experience and podcast journey, Hatch has recognised certain parameters that he believes could make a difference to sufferers of gambling addiction, noting that affordability checks are a “good idea.”

He questioned that, even if operators or land-based casinos put affordability checks at $5,000, how many people can gamble that large amount in a single evening. 

He continued: “That would be there just to make sure that there’s no harm after that amount of money. You know, if you cut them off at a certain point, they’re not going to lose that extra money that they could lose. 

“I think affordability checks are a good idea because I don’t think people can control themselves when it comes to this.”

“I think having some sort of affordability check at the door or when you go to get more money at the casino is a good idea. I can’t believe it would be that complicated, considering most casinos do a credit check anyways.”

Circling back towards the end of the show, Lycka raised that Hatch was a very “vociferous and articulate advocate” of not allowing credit cards for gambling purposes, a similar route that Massachusetts has gone down. 

Credit cards were a topic of discussion towards the end of the latest Safe Bet Show as Lycka asserted that Hatch was a very “vociferous and articulate advocate” for credit card bans seen in states like Massachusetts. 

Underlining his belief that this is the correct avenue, Hatch stated: “I gambled with credit cards and when you do that, there’s an automatic fee. When you take money off your credit card and it is there presumably for emergencies, because the credit card is money you don’t have. It’s not your money. 

“This is debt that you’re accumulating by using your credit card to gamble. Not being able to use your credit card, at least if you gamble away all your cash, you would still have a credit card to be able to buy food and gas and pay your bills.”

Martin Lycka’s Safe Bet Show with Brian Hatch also discussed the contrast between regulated and black market services from an addict’s perspective while outlining the role that the health system in the US plays in tackling gambling addiction.