12:00PM, Sunday 17 October 2021
Slough Town footballer Scott Davies had no idea that sneaking into betting shops aged 16 would lead to a crippling decade-long gambling addiction that cost him over £250,000 and left him at rock bottom.
The former Reading and Aldershot Town midfielder, 33, saw a bit of fun spiral into a serious problem, curtailing his football career as he slept in his car, stole from his parents, and eventually started self-harming.
But in 2015, Davies went to rehab and managed to kick the habit that effectively ended his full-time playing career but now has what he describes as the ‘best job in the world’ working with leading gambling harm minimisation consultancy EPIC Risk Management and going into football clubs to educate others about the dangers of the path he unwittingly followed.
“I did things that I wasn’t proud of, I crashed my car when I was watching horse racing - there was a child sitting in a car seat in the opposite car,” said Davies, speaking in support of the EPIC Risk Management Pro Sport Advisory Board, which has been launched as the world’s first panel to investigate and act upon the risk of gambling harm affecting professional sports stars or eSports players.
“I started to bet on my own matches, found myself sleeping in my car after training because I couldn’t afford to get home - I’d put my last pound in a roulette machine, on a horse or on a dog.
“It started completely ruining my life, I gambled my deposit away for my house in 15 days which was £32,000.
“There were so many different things, I started taking things from my parents’ house to sell to make money, I’ve been through my parents’ purses and wallets.
“And that was someone that was brought up with the right morals, principles and values and I had completely been stripped of them by this addiction.
“Then in 2015 I started to self-harm, something that was out of the ordinary for me. I knew that it wasn’t a solution but I wanted the pain to stop and I didn’t know how to get that pain to stop.
“Looking back now it’s actually one of the proudest moments of my life, leaving rehab, because I knew I’d done the right thing, I knew I’d turned my life around and I knew I was sort of getting my family back on side and that was the most important thing for me.”
Based on his lived experience, Davies - who now plays part-time for Slough Town in the National League South - is fully behind EPIC’s new global collective made up of leading names from organisations representing professional sports players, eSports experts and gambling industry leaders, who will meet throughout the year to share best practice, highlight concerns, and shape policy through their experience in gambling, gaming, esports, integrity, athlete welfare and lived experience.
EPIC employs several current and former professional sports stars - including Davies - as facilitators in their worldwide training programmes to warn players across multiple sports of the heightened risk of gambling addiction in their sector, which is regularly recorded as being four times higher than among those who aren’t involved in elite sports.
“Footballers tend to be competitive people so if someone said to me why would I fall into the risk of being a problem gambler… I hated losing, “added Davies.
“I think it’s only going to get worse unless we do more about it and I think we are doing more about the problem now.
“The Pro Sport Advisory Board is so important. People need education and to get people who are at the top of the tree in their respective jobs working on it is essential, I think, I never had anything like that.”
The EPIC Risk Management Pro Sport Advisory Board is the world’s first panel looking into gambling harm minimisation for elite sport.
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.