"Luck is no coincidence" says BetFair - really?

The gambling industry likes their customers to believe betting is a skill rather than a matter of chance. The above quote from one of their TV ads bears this out and is the basis of their attempt to widen their appeal to prospective customers. Studying form, and then placing a bet, creates the illusion of strategic control and perpetuates the myth that betting is an art rather than a stab in the dark, and we are easily persuaded when we want to believe in the truth of what is being offered to us.

Advertising, as the late great Bill Hicks maintained, is the art of luring people into buying what they don't need but crave because of the promise sold to them, as if the product or activity possesses something magically transcendent. The lure of gambling works on the same principle. For reasons unclear and illusory, punters put their faith on chance and fate; winning affirms a sense of specialness they've rarely felt and actively, if unconsciously, crave and desire.

The gambling industry plays on and exaggerates this, as if it's a more likely outcome than not, and punters get led by the nose up the sacrificial ramp to their own eventual demise. They know something's not quite right but they can't accurately pinpoint exactly what that is.

Reasons given by the addicted gambler are always external; they're always casting themselves in the role of the victim of circumstance; they've just been unlucky. But if luck is no coincidence then all the gambler has to do is regroup, re-strategise and prepare to reap the rewards. Except that doesn't happen. The problem gambler will never win because they don't believe in themselves. Theirs is not a blessed or happy life, theirs is a traumatised narrative where self-esteem and self-worth are at an all time low. Only grandiosity can eclipse their tale of woe, and it just won't happen because it's a fantasy. The grandiose is an illusion clung onto tenaciously by addicts. They pitch themselves headlong into the void of oblivion throwing good money after bad in search of peace, quiet and oblivion and the bookies will obligingly provide them with every angle, every combination and every opportunity to lose time after time. Our job, should we choose to accept it, is to lead them onto a path of sober regard for themselves as imperfect beings living in an imperfect world. Leave behind the illusion and fantasy of perfection and, in time, enjoyment of everyday life becomes possible. Responsibility that previously existed outside their remit now becomes within their reach and can remain in their control. 'I was unlucky' 'I nearly won' can now be seen and felt as the illusion that it is that perpetuates and protects their supply ie: gambling. The focus that was previously always on what could have been now becomes what can be. 'bad faith' now becomes 'good faith'.

Eckhart Tolle tells us it is the 'now' that matters not the 'past' or the 'future'; both are projections that get in the way of the picture of 'now'. If we can view ourselves in the 'now' we find we are fine, but our anxieties about the future and the past remain in the way because they contain trauma that won't fade. This is because we can't let it go until we recognise it for what it is; our misperceptions of 'what is' in favour of 'what isn't'; fairy tale fantasy perfect endings. And we all know where fairy tales originate and to whom they are read. In Freudian terms, there is a fixation there. In existential terms, there is a refusal to accept the responsibility of 'being' and the existential angst that that acceptance entails and bestows, and for some that is a burden too heavy to bear.

Addiction is a rejection of our agency in favour of the agency of the masses, the many; in short 'others'; anyone but us. We become who we are not, as opposed to who we are and disappear beneath the waves of anonymity to be washed to and fro by the current of the will of others.

'Recovery' means recovering our long lost selves, our true authentic self. Our unique identity buried beneath the rubble of our troubled past. Therapy is often the archaeological dig needed to uncover those remains with the client as the expert guide.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Hove, East Sussex, BN3 5DQ
Written by Bradley Riddell, MBACP, FDAP, BA, P.G.Dip
Hove, East Sussex, BN3 5DQ

Bradley Riddell is a counsellor in private practice in Brighton and Maidstone who specialises in addiction and compulsive disorders. He also works for Breakeven, a charity offering free counselling to problem gamblers in the South of England.


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