[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Help
BBC OnePanorama

MORE PROGRAMMES

Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 10:47 GMT
Transcript: Online Gambling
NB: THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT: BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY.


PANORAMA ONLINE GAMBLING
BRITAIN'S NEW OBSESSION
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE
26 NOVEMBER 2006


DECLAN LAWN: Welcome to the rollercoaster world that is internet gambling. Imagine instead of going to work for a living, you win your wages on the click of a mouse. Yes! Ha ha ha, well done! You are an absolute genius. (shaking the hand of Matthew Hopkins) Two grand!

Imagine losing nearly half a million pounds of somebody else's money!

SHARNA: I just cried and cried. Here I was pregnant, going to the Old Bailey, facing prison, all because I'd got into internet gambling.

DECLAN: Meet the man who wins when punters lose.

CALVIN AYRE: I started from scratch and in just over ten years I've created a billion dollar business. Life's been good to me!

CALVIN'S GIRLS: Whaoooooo!

DECLAN: Tonight we ask why Britain is encouraging internet gambling when America is passing laws to ban it. Are the stakes just too high?

JIM ORFORD: We could be talking about a million people affected by it in any one period of 12 months, and that begins to put it on a par with drug addiction.

DECLAN: Poker, the game of predators and prey. Like millions of people in the UK over the last few years, I've discovered that I like this game, but when it comes to betting money, my friends and I are small fry. These days, if you're a real gambler, there's only one place to play poker, and that's on the internet. That's where the predators live, and tonight I've invited one of them to sit down at our table. Meet Matthew Hopkins from South Wales. He's 20 years old. All of his friends have gone off to university but he hasn't. Instead he's earning a living as a professional online poker player.

So how did you get started?

MATTHEW MATT, Online poker player: I basically started about two years ago. I was working in a chip shop and I was talking to one of my friends on line and he told me about it, and he told me how much he was making as well, and at the time it was a lot of money in comparison to working in the chip shop, so I thought I'd have a little look into it.

DECLAN: And how do you do at it now?

MATT: I make between 20 and 30 thousand US dollars in a month.

DECLAN: In a month!?

MATT: In a month, yeah.

DECLAN: It seems that internet poker is becoming Britain's newest profession. Panorama has spoken to people all over the UK who are jacking in the day job for a career on the virtual card tables.

MAN2: My wife is terrified. Over the months and years now she has become accustomed to it as she realises it is working and we can actually make a living off it.

MAN3: I've moved up a status. I think I can sustain earning $25-30 thousand a month.

MAN4: It's just a rubbish part-time job and then I started. I realised I was making more money from playing poker than I was from my part-time job.

MAN5: I'm hooked on the money kind of thing, but I could definitely stop if I found something else. I'd definitely not want to stop to go and work like 9-5 in an office job and make nowhere near the amount of money.

DECLAN: For me playing poker has never been about money but all that's about to change. Matthew is going to introduce me to his world by spending a few weeks in mine. He's coming to my home town of Belfast where Panorama is setting him up with everything he needs for a month long internet poker session. Well, almost everything. He also needs a stake to play with, and that is coming from my own savings! I've never gambled with an amount of money that it would really hurt me to lose. But Matthew is confident that by the end of the month, the only thing I'll be worrying about is what to do with my winnings.

DECLAN LAWN: So the rules of our little experiment is as follows: Online poker is played for US dollars, so I'm going to give Matthew a significant kind of scary amount of my own money. This is 2000 US dollars. His mission is going to be to double this over the next month. Now if he manages to do that, then I am going to take the money and run. But what if he loses it? Well if he does, I have been reliably informed by the BBC that that will very definitely be my problem. I should know by the end of this month whether I'm a winner or whether I'm a loser.

You're not going to let me down, are you Poker Boy?

MATT: Definitely not Declan. You have nothing to worry about. Hm.... (accepting the cash Declan hands over)

DECLAN: Before Matthew got ready to double my money he gave me a quick online poker tutorial.

MATT: See, you're up $100 now.

DECLAN: Yeah, pretty good.

Getting started couldn't be easier. All you need is a credit card to sign up with an internet poker company. Once you're logged on, you then choose a poker name and sit down at a virtual table. My poker name is: "The Dec" and facing me on this table are up to ten players who could be from anywhere in the world. The poker software then deals every player two cards. No one else on the table can see them, and then the betting starts. Three cards are then dealt to the middle of the table that everyone can see.

MATT: Oh, look at that, a good bet for us. Just check.

DECLAN: Just check?

MATT: Yeah, cos we've got the best hand so we want them to pay us off.

DECLAN: As the betting continues, two more cards are dealt. You have to make the best five card poker hand you can to win the pot.

Is he going to beat us here?

MATT: No, we've won the hand.

DECLAN: We have? Well done! Well done, great, so that's $147.

MATT: Yeah.

DECLAN: Just like that (snapping fingers) just like that.

It's a game of chance but it's also a game of skill and psychology.

MATT: We scope these guys out, we know how they play so we've got a very good position on this table as well.

DECLAN: Millions of people across the world have become engrossed in this game over the last few years. For the internet gambling industry, games like poker have led to a modern day gold rush, and the man on this private jet has been one of its pioneers. Calvin Ayre struck gold with bodog.com, one of the world's most lucrative online gambling sites. The Bodog corporate mantra is: "Work Hard, Play Hard" and the boss is only too happy to play up to the image.

[Clips: fast bikes, blue water, boats, planes, sun, sea and glamorous girls]

What's the best thing about getting involved in this industry?

CALVIN: The girls! (points to girl in pool behind him) (laughs) The lifestyle.

DECLAN: How much are you worth personally?

CALVIN AYRE, Founder, bodog.com: Last year Forbes Magazine did an evaluation of my net worth and they conservatively came up with a number in the range of a billion dollars and our business is at least 50% larger worldwide today than it was then. We've had triple digit growth for most of the last 5-6 years.

DECLAN: Millions of British people are making internet gambling moguls, like Calvin Ayre, richer and richer. They're betting on casino games like poker, black jack and roulette, on every sport from baseball to boxing, and they're gambling every minute of every day. British punters are spending a fortune with online bookies. At the last count about a billion pounds a year.

CALVIN: I think people like gambling and the convenience of the internet just brings it all home. I think there's probably nobody on the planet that ever thought that internet gaming was going to miss, so I think it's just human nature. People have always gambled and always will gamble.

DECLAN: And for as long as people gamble, Calvin can't lose. But back in Belfast, I'm hoping that my savings aren't about to end up as somebody else's profit. It's time to pay Matthew a surprise visit to see how he's doing with my money. The thing about the kind of high stakes poker that Matthew plays is that he could easily have lost it all, that's the worst case scenario.

(Entering Matthew's home)

Matthew! Matthew! He's not here.

CAMERAMAN: Try his bed.

DECLAN: Well if he's in bed then he deserves to be woken up with the camera. (knocks and enters) He is in bed!

CAMERMAN: He's supposed to be working for you.

DECLAN: Matthew, what are you doing in bed? I've brought a camera crew to see you.

MATT: (sleepily rubs his eyes and rouses) Hello mate. What are you doing?

DECLAN: It's 9 o'clock! What are you doing in bed?! You're supposed to be doubling my money mate.

MATT: Declan get out. I've done it already. It's on the computer.

DECLAN: (looks at computer) He has done it! Declan Lawn, account balance $4,482.40. He's doubled. So I've given him $2000 just over 48 hours ago and he's doubled it and then some! That's incredible. Now that really does seem like easy money, so much so that I decided to throw the rules of our little experiment out the window. Instead of taking the money and running at this point, I've asked Matthew to keep on playing. I want to see just how much money we can make.

Eleven in the morning, neither of us have had enough sleep. We're playing two different tables for $500. It's ridiculous. And what are all these other people doing at 11 o'clock in the morning, that's what I want to know. Isn't anybody at work?

MATT: Ahhhh - yes!

DECLAN: Did we win?

MATT: $1,105.

DECLAN: What? $1,105?!

MATT: Mmm.

DECLAN: We won?

MATT: Yep.

DECLAN: (laughs) Fantastic! That's amazing!

Matthew and I are doing well. Within a few sessions we're up to nearly $6000.

Now this is starting to get scary because now we're putting $1000 on one table and the amount that the other guys have ranges between $500 and nearly $4000.

MATT: This is the business Declan, this is the business.

DECLAN: Another mark of our success is that we're constantly busting other players, taking all of their money and watching them disappear from the table.

MATT: Yes, I'll check that - wow!

DECLAN: Look at them Matthew, I can't believe you predicted that. We've just cleaned the guy out, he's just left the table. God, I feel kind of bad about this.

It's a real buzz but I am uneasy about it. I wonder, what does losing cash to people? Does it mean a little, or does it mean a lot?

SHARNA: When I lost 22,000 I remember driving home and I actually felt suicidal. William Hill on line........

DECLAN: Losing certainly meant a lot to Sharna Baker. She lost everything she owned because of her online gambling habit. She only got involved by chance when she was asked to run an office sweepstake. Soon she was hooked and spiralling towards addiction.

SHARNA BAKER The most unfortunate thing that happened to me was that I had really good beginners luck. I was picking out horses at 33-1, 25-1 and people couldn't believe like how are you picking these horses out? But I would just be picking them out and they were just running home.

DECLAN: It was an incredible winning streak. At just 24 years old Sharna, with absolutely no insight into horseracing whatsoever, had won 25,000 on the internet, doubling her bank secretary's salary. But her luck wasn't to last.

SHARNA: After the first year my luck changed. I started betting and losing, and before I knew it, I'd actually lost everything that I'd saved for, everything in my savings account was gone and everything in my current account was gone. I had no money. I was devastated.

DECLAN: Sharna started chasing her losses. She borrowed 25,000 on credit cards, took out a 20,000 loan and finally re-mortgaged her home for 27,000. She lost every penny.

SHARNA: I was angry with myself, but my initial thoughts were still that I could win it back. I had that luck in the first year and I still believed that I would... you know.. have that luck again.

DECLAN: And this was a secret?

SHARNA: Yes, oh yeah, I didn't tell no one about losing. I was ashamed really I suppose. I didn't want to tell people about losing.

DECLAN: Desperate and broke, Sharna began stealing from her employer, a merchant bank in the city of London.

SHARNA: I was given a password that did enable me to send funds from the bank that I worked at into my bank account. I was betting on every race in the country which went every ten minutes every day.

DECLAN: Sharna was made redundant in November 2005 with her employer still in the dark about what she'd done. For her, it meant that the last source of access to gambling money had dried up, but she had one final card to play - her 8000 redundancy money.

SHARNA: This was the last bit of money that I could get my hands on, and that was on the Thursday, I knew I couldn't cash it, and on the Friday I'd lost the lot, I had not a penny to my name. I was just terrible. I was shaking, I couldn't see anyone, I just wanted to cry, I didn't know what to do, and on the Monday, after the weekend, I came in and I broke down and I told my partner Jordan that I'd taken money from my company.

DECLAN: Sharna then confessed to her former employer. She thought she'd probably stolen about 60,000.

SHARNA: The police came round and arrested me, and they took me to the police station, and when we got there and I was checking in, they actually said we've arrested this girl on the theft of 460,000! I just couldn't believe it, and obviously my first thoughts was oh my God! I am going to prison!

DECLAN: Sharna's case is extreme but not unique. Panorama has spoken to people right across the country who've got in over their heads on the net.

MAN6: On average a month I would spend maybe between 5 and 12 hundred pounds of my wage online without realising it until week three would come along and I would be asking one of my mates for a borrow.

WOMAN: Gambling online I think is the worst possible outlet for a compulsive gambler because it's completely private. No one else needs to know you're doing it.

MAN7: I have lost approximately a quarter of a million pounds in the last 7 years.

WOMAN2: It's evil. It's evil, it's nasty, and... if the government don't tighten up the regulations there's going to be one big debt problem and a lot of people who will end up ill and I think eventually someone will end up committing suicide through it.

DECLAN: By now I'm also learning that online poker can have its drawbacks.

MATT: We'll make our flush but they've still got a full house.

DECLAN: They won?

MATT: Yeah, yeah. 950 bucks.

DECLAN: Oh my gosh, we've just lost a thousand dollars! I can't believe this. I really can't do this.

MATT: (laugh) Declan's a bit...

DECLAN: For the first time in my life I feel like a gambler. The strangest thing is kind of how normal it feels. You adapt really quickly to playing with large amounts of money, and then you look at all these high stakes tables, thousands upon thousands of people playing at these stakes and you just think it's no wonder this industry makes so much money, and it's incredible how someone like Matthew, who is completely implacable and at ease with losing hundreds and hundreds of dollars in one hand, and where I see money he just sees numbers. You can definitely see how it could get compulsive and addictive and quite hypnotic almost, to have the potential to make you very, very happy or very, very sad. The government doesn't know for sure how many regular online gamblers there are in the UK. At a press conference last month minister Tessa Jowell ventured an estimate.

TESSA JOWELL, MP Minister for Culture, Media & Sport: About a million people gamble regularly on line in the UK. They spend on average about a thousand pounds, or they stake about a thousand pounds each, a billion pounds a year. So remote gambling, online gambling, has gone from niche to mass market.

DECLAN: Perhaps more mass markets than the minister realises. Panorama has been given access to new research that suggests there are nearly 5.8 million people logging onto internet gambling sites every month. That's nearly one in ten of us, and nobody knows how many of those might have a problem.

Source: Nielsen/NetRatings

JIM ORFORD: I think that internet gambling is going to turn out to be one of the most dangerous sports of gambling.

DECLAN: Jim Orford is a worried man. He's a professor of psychology at the University of Birmingham. His specialism is addiction and he fears that internet gambling will keep people like him extremely busy.

Professor JIM ORFORD University of Birmingham: What's going to happen, I think, is that gradually we're going to realise it's a bigger problem than we thought. More people are going to know friends and family members who have got problems, health authorities are going to be under more pressure to provide treatment. We could be talking about a million people affected by it in any one period of 12 months, and that begins to put it on a par with drug addiction problems.

DECLAN: So is it time to pull the plug before we become losers. There's always been something of the frontier spirit about internet gambling. Pioneers stake their claims to this multi billion dollar business before most countries have laws to regulate it. But this year, in the United States, everything changed. The law men decided to run the internet gambling industry out of time.

[Clip from CBS]

This is the CBS Evening News. One of the fastest growing activities in America is playing poker, often for money, online. Now a new law targets internet casinos and the cash they pay out.

DECLAN: For almost a decade there has been an uneasy standoff between the US Department of Justice and the internet gambling industry. But early this summer the government drew (sheriff and outlaw enactment) The first casualty was this man, David Carruthers. He was the British Chief Executive of "BetonSports" a firm listed on the London Stock Exchange. When Carruthers visited America in July, he was arrested by FBI agents charged with racketeering, fraud and violating the 1961 Wire Act and led off to prison in chains.

The National Coalition Against Legalised Gambling was thrilled when David Carruthers was arrested.

DECLAN: In the US jubilant anti-gambling campaigners celebrated the arrest from his base in rural Wyoming David Robertson has been at the forefront of the fight against internet gambling, believing it to be a social evil.

DAVID ROBERTSON National Coalition Against Legalised Gambling I'm sorry that I'm not very charitable but what he has done to people I think that he has deserved everything that he has got. The Justice Department was finally prosecuting a case that should have been brought a long time ago. They always said that internet gambling was illegal, but they hadn't done a lot to prove that that's what they really believed.

DECLAN: After initial panic on the Stock Market the internet gambling industry began to pick itself up. But then in early September, US lawmen fired again. This time the victim was this man, Peter Dicks, a non-executive director of another British company - Sportingbet. He touched down in New York and was immediately arrested under a warrant from the State of Louisiana. For the internet gambling industry in the United States this was a much more serious blow. Peter Dicks was well connected and well respected, and the industry knew that if the law could go after him, it could go after anyone. Most of the companies familiar to British gamblers are based closer to home, but not so close as to come under our company tax laws - they're in Gibraltar. These days the Rock probably has more bookies than apes, and the news that the State of Louisiana had warrants out for another 50 unnamed gambling executives sent shivers through Gibraltar's newest and most lucrative industry.

FRANK MAHON Managing Director, bwin.com: I've never broken the law in my life, but if I want to travel now in certain jurisdictions, I could be treated as a terrorist rather than a bookmaker.

DECLAN: Would you go to America?

MAHON: I wouldn't go to America, no.

DECLAN: Are you concerned that you might be on the list?

JOHN ANDERSON Chief Executive, 888.com: I'd be pretty silly if I wasn't concerned if I wasn't on the list, yeah.

DECLAN: But in America, worse news was still to come. At the beginning of last month the US congress banned the use of American credit cards and online accounts for gambling. For many internet gambling companies it was the death of their American business, a business worth billions of dollars. The moral argument that internet gambling was bad for Uncle Sam had triumphed. John Anderson runs 888.com. It's one of the world's leading online gambling sites, and because it's based in Gibraltar it's also strictly regulated by the government there. He thinks the US has taken a backward step.

JOHN ANDERSON: People gamble, people like to gamble, this industry is here to stay. If you prohibit things.. you go through a prohibition thing, all that'll happen is you'll drive it underground, and that'll be a sad day and it is a sad day for the consumer. The wont have any protection that's afforded from people like me who are properly regulating.

DAVID ROBERTSON National Coalition Against Legalised Gambling: The internet gambling industry says that this is prohibition, and it's not prohibition because there's all sorts of gambling available in the United States. It's not like people are being cut off from gambling. What they're being cut off from is the most addictive kind of gambling that has ever been invented.

DECLAN: The new law led to carnage on the Stock Market as all of the public internet gambling companies, including 888 decided that staying in America was a gamble too far.

Losing 50% of your business overnight must have been really devastating for you.

ANDERSON: Yeah, completely devastating. There's not a lot of people lose 50% of their business overnight. We did, out of choice I've got to add, because I couldn't put my employees, shareholders, directors and myself under a risk of being a criminal.

DECLAN: John Anderson says that 888 will bounce back and expand into new markets. But not everybody is pulling out of the US immediately. When we visited Calvin Ayre in Costa Rica the Americans sports bets were still flooding in.

So how much money is being bet on that one college football game?

CALVIN: What do you think the total handle will be for that one game?

EMPLOYEE: Right now, including all the central wagers.. bodog wagers... I guess it would be... close to two million.

DECLAN: In accepting these wagers Calvin is committing a federal offence in the eyes of the US Department of Justice. But he says American punters will always find a way.

CALVIN AYRE, Founder, bodog.com: Even if the internet was shut down they're still going to get their bets, it would just revert back to the way it was with the corner bookie in the United States. The Americans have bet sports since they became Americans and I suspect they always will.

DECLAN: Calvin now has plans to expand his business into Europe, but in some countries he may not get the reception he's hoping for. France has already taken the step of arresting two Austrian internet gambling executives alleging they were violating French gaming laws. Sweden, Denmark and Germany are all questioning the legality of internet gambling. But there is one country where internet gambling bosses are about to be made very welcome. Could it be the Caymans? Perhaps Panama. This is the Gambling Act 2005. It comes into force in September next year and I'll allow online casinos to be based here in the UK. The government has said it wants Britain to be a world leader in the field of online gambling. So why are we rolling out the red carpet when other governments prefer handcuffs?

Why do you think that what the US did was irresponsible? They saw an opportunity to ban financial transactions with regard to internet gambling and they did. We could do that.

RICHARD CABORN MP, Minister for Sport: Well we thought that it was right to legislate to bring in better governance for those who actually want to be part of the leisure industry and not necessarily drive it underground. I think that prohibition is not the best way forward.

DECLAN: Why not?

CABORN: Because I think you will find all types of distortion and it will be probably in the medium term be very much vulnerable to the criminal element in society.

Professor JIM ORFORD, University of Birmingham: I think there's a lot of naivety about this. I think the government are being... the government is either being nave or they really are playing... you know, playing dice as it were, with our health and happiness and wellbeing, and it's being driven by the industry I think, this. It's not being driven by evident demand from you and I for more gambling.

DECLAN: One of the provisions of the new act is likely to lead to online gambling companies advertising on television.

JIM ORFORD: It's... if you like it's a normalising thing. People will grow up thinking it's a normal thing to do, not something that is dangerous or should be hidden, but something that's a normal part of every day life.

DECLAN: This act, in allowing advertising on TV changes the spirit of gambling legislation, it's not just permitting it or control it, it's stimulating demand, isn't it.

RICHARD CABORN: We set off to make sure that this industry, which is part of the leisure industry, acted responsibly, corporately responsibly, and that will be through the licensing regime. We have, I believe, acted responsibility in bringing an act onto the statute book which has three basic principles of which it is based: protecting the vulnerable; keeping it crime-free and making sure that those who have a bet will be paid out and it will be a fair bet.

Details of the UK's proposed internet gambling industry regulations are due to be announced shortly. For more information visit bbc.co.uk/panorama

DECLAN: We've discovered the online gambling industry has had 26 meetings with ministers and officials from Mr Caborn's Department in the last two years. The industry thinks tax levels in the UK are too high and wont move here unless they can be significantly lowered. According to government documents obtained by Panorama, Richard Caborn's Department has been raising the industry's concerns about tax with the Treasury.

Are you lobbying the Treasury to say give these people a better tax deal, or at least think about a new tax deal?

CABORN: That is a decision for the Treasury. What we can put to the Treasury...

DECLAN: Yeah, but you're involved in that, I mean it says here in this DCMS document that you said to the industry that: "The CDMS is aware of the industry's concerns about taxation levels and these concerns have been fed into our discussions."

CABORN: The industry have made representations to us on taxation, we pass those on to the Treasury, and there are direct discussion.... there are direct discussions between the industry and the Treasury.

DECLAN: You said to the industry in one of these documents that I'm happy to ask my officials to discuss this issue further with Treasury colleagues. Do you think it's right for one government department to be lobbying another one to discuss tax for a privately owned industry?

CABORN: No, like we will do it for many industries, we will pass on the concerns of the sector, whether it's the sports sector which we have in terms of taxation, the professional bodies in sport and have wanted to pass on an issue to the Treasury we've done that. But at the end of the day it's a discussion between professional sport and the Treasury or the gambling industry and the Treasury of which there are discussions going on between those two bodies.

DECLAN: Sharna Baker was lucky not to be sent to prison for stealing nearly half a million pounds to gamble on line. The judge described her addiction as a disease, and instead of going to jail she went into therapy.

SHARNA: I was just very, very fortunate that I think the judge saw it for what it really was, and I was ill and really addicted, and had I never have bet on internet gambling I would never have taken that money from my work, and it was proven that every penny I took from that company went to internet gambling, every penny, it was for no other reason.

DECLAN: Sharna only earned 25,000 per year. Of the 460,000 that she lost on the internet, she reckons 400,000 of it went to William Hills online arm. Sharna claims the company didn't ask if she could afford to lose so much. Instead, she says, it offered her incentives to keep betting.

SHARNA: They actually said that we'd like to make you one of our valued sort of higher customers and we're going to offer you promotion that don't just go out to everyone.

DECLAN: We wanted to ask William Hill why it offered Sharna incentives to gamble, but never once inquired whether she could afford it. But the company declined to comment. However, William Hill did tell us it has been actively involved, along with other gambling firms, in developing a range of measures to help problem gamblers. Sharna welcomes tighter regulation but she's also worried about whether the new legislation will create even more people like her.

SHARNA: I think if the government are going to do that they should look at the impact that it's going to have on the society, because how many more other people are out there? I mean I believe it's getting more out of control now as this internet gambling is getting bigger, and when they do that, you know, how much more out of control is it going to get?

DECLAN: Isn't there a real danger in what we're doing here? Are we not playing with fire?

RICHARD CABORN MP, Minister for Sport: There are excesses in many forms of life. Do we ban drinking because people get drunk? No we don't. Do we ban chocolate because people are obese? No we don't. Now do we actually stop gambling? No we don't because people will want to gamble. The minority should not dictate... the minority should not dictate to a majority.

DECLAN: Matthew and I have got about $4000 in the kitty. This will be our last poker session and we're going for even higher stakes. Today could be a nice little earner.

MATT: All in?

DECLAN: Yeah, go on then, go on, go ahead, go all in. How much is that?

MATT: $824.

DECLAN: We're on a roll. All in, oh no, no, no, not again.

MATT: We're going to be able to take all of his money off him.

DECLAN: That's what I like to hear.

MATT: Yeah, $401 we won there.

DECLAN: Yes! We just can't seem to lose.

MATT: All in now.

DECLAN: We just went all in on a pair of 9s.

MATT: Yep.

DECLAN: How much was that?

MATT: Oh! No way! DECLAN: Oh no! How much did we lose? We lost $500, didn't we.

MATT: Yeah, yeah.

DECLAN: 500 bucks, just like that. Suddenly we're on a losing streak, and by nightfall I'm frustrated to discover that we're roughly back where we started. But I'm determined to leave this session with more money than I started with. We're gonna play very high stakes, a thousand and two thousand dollar buy ins. Now we've only got $4000, that is very high stakes, we could lose the lot really easily. I'm getting nervous now because I know this could go very wrong very quickly.

MATT: 88888888.....

DECLAN: Please, come on.... Don't tell me we've lost it.

MATT: Yeah, we lost this hand.

DECLAN: No we haven't! Oh my God! We've just lost $1000. That's not even funny any more.

MATT: You're alright now Declan.

DECLAN: And before I know it, I'm in the last chance saloon. Come on, if I can just make it on this it'll be my last hand, if I can just make my money back. I have a pair of tens. Okay, I'm going to go all in, it's the last hand. But my opponent had three of a kind. I'm a loser.

MATT: What a sit out?

DECLAN: You're sitting out because you ran out of chips.

MATT: (laughs)

DECLAN: I'm out of the game. I don't have enough money left to sit at this table. Strangely I'm shocked. I'm totally sickened by it and I need to go outside and get some fresh air. Losing feels all the worse because I know I've been undone by my own greed. I do briefly consider putting more cash on the table in an attempt to win it back, but I don't. For me the game is over. Well.... probably.

Next week Panorama under fire in Afghanistan. We are with British troops fighting the Taliban in what's been called the most important battle for world security in the 21st century.

If you've been affected by any of the issues in tonight's programme and would like to talk to someone in confidence for further information or support, please call the BBC Action Line free on 0800 066 066.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Watch Panorama on internet gambling



RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific