Research by Public Health England estimates that 246,000 adults have some form of gambling addiction. Justyn Rees Larcombe was one of them, until God answered his cry for help. As the World Cup gets underway, he warns others of the dangers of sports betting

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring Argentina’s first goal in the FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

It’s the Word Cup. A time when everyone gets behind their national team. Hearts race, hopes rise. A time for anticipation and excitement.

It’s also a bonanza for the betting operators.

When every other advert seems to encourage us to open an account and place a bet on the outcome of a match; the score, the number of corners, the unfortunate receiver of a yellow card, it means just one thing: profits from gambling rise. Even without the World Cup, 18 per cent of adverts on TV are now gambling related.

Losing everything

Not that long ago I was enjoying a highly successful career in the City. But I had drifted away from a close relationship with Christ: I had stopped reading the Bible and hardly ever went to church. It was then that I opened an online account after seeing an advert for a free bet on a pitch-side panel.

I won that bet, but three years later I had lost my home, £750,000, my job, my car and most tragically of all, my wife and children. Having reached rock bottom and considering taking my life, I got down on my knees and prayed. That was the last day I ever placed a bet.

For many, the World Cup will mean misery

Many people will bet on the World Cup this year, some for the first time. A high proportion of those will be young people, using the simplicity of smartphone technology. Most will lose and not worry too much about it. But sadly, for many, the World Cup will be a misery: it will mean losing money that is borrowed, or meant for food, rent and fuel to heat their homes. In the worst cases it will ultimately cause relationship breakdown, the loss of work, depression and anxiety, and, for a few, even suicide.

Sadly, we have seen an increase in the number of people seeking help for addiction after lockdown. In the news this week, the NHS reported a 42 per cent rise in the number of people being referred for treatment for gambling addiction.

The Christian charity I lead, called The Recovery Course — which offers free sessions for those struggling with all types of addiction and those affected by the actions of addicts close to them — puts Christ back into the centre of recovery. I have the privilege of seeing the incredible transformation that Christ brings to people when they are set free from the captivity addiction brings.

This year I will be enjoying the football without a thought of losing my hard-earned money, all because Christ set me free.