I was addicted to online gambling – wanted to kill myself at 19 but now saving others

TWO FORMER gambling addicts have turned their losses into gains by starting a tech company to help others affected.

Jack Symons is the founder and CEO of Gamban, an app that blocks thousands of gambling and stock exchange sites for the benefit of people struggling with gambling addiction.


The GambBan interface in action

Symons and Matt Zarb-Cousin, his partner in GamBan, were tens of thousands of dollars in debt according to a spokesperson.

“Just before I turned 20, I really wanted to kill myself,” Zarb-Cousin explained in a post for the Alliance of Addiction Providers. “I don’t think it’s about the money.

“That was pretty much where addiction had taken me. Gambling had distracted me from my life for so long.”

Compulsive gamblers are the people most at risk for self-harm.

A 2017 study found that one in five drug addicts attempt suicide, more than any other addictive disorder.

Symons told The Sun that casual gamers can be a family tragedy, a work-related incident or an adrenaline rush not to cross the threshold into problem gambling.

“It culminated for me with a big win, something around $35,000 in one spin of the slot,” Symons told The Sun in an exclusive interview. “I think I was both unlucky and equally lucky that night.”

The state of play

Instead, the United States is drawn to gambling – in the first three months of legal digital gambling in Arizona, Arizonans bet $1.2 billion.

Content machines such as Barstool Sports have made their mark producing gaming content while older media incorporate betting odds into on-screen graphics.

Meanwhile, new gambling start-ups are popping up every day to try to gain a foothold in the $60 billion industry.

The silent epidemic has an estimated two million Americans addicted to gambling, and millions abroad are struggling with the same problem.

Over the past seven years, Symons has refined GamBan, an app and web plug-in that blocks tens of thousands of gambling sites and adjoining games for problem gamblers for a nominal fee.

The Gamban engine

GamBan uses proprietary technology to block gambling sites without being invasive.

Available on all platforms, GamBan is intended to complement other gambling addiction treatment options.

In his own struggles, Symons downgraded his cell phone to a Nokia clamshell – while effective, few will be able to sacrifice a smartphone no matter how deep into debt their gambling addiction has driven them.

“There’s a trade-off between being able to have the technology I need and being able to have this device free from the tyranny of constant temptation,” Symons said.

The app is designed to be deliberately hard to uninstall. On iOS, removing the app from the home screen will not lift the restrictions.


Later in the evolution of GamBan, they reached a crossroads when it came to stock trading apps and gamified crypto platforms.

Studies have shown that most people see it as gambling, but the deciding factor was the company’s correspondence with a gambling addiction helpline.

Workers at GamCare, a gambling addiction hotline, told the company that callers regret their commitments to gamified trading platforms and cryptocurrencies.

GamBan even blocks Robinhood, the common trading platform with almost no barrier to entry.

Inexperienced traders can engage in complex trades without fully understanding the mechanics. “Typical trading on these platforms does not resemble well-executed responsible trading,” Symons said.

Symons and the GamBan team also found “many crypto platforms that let you play with crypto.”

They determined it was “essentially playing your game” and blocked access for GamBan users.

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The Biden administration has been tight-lipped on the federal government’s overall stance on gambling and has focused primarily on shutting down illegal sportsbooks. Legal or not, one thing is certain:

“They say the house always wins and that’s 100% true,” Symons concluded.

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