Gambling addict wanted arcade ban

A GAMBLING addict threatened a games arcade attendant he blamed for losing him £600 because he wanted to be banned from the arcade.Darren Towns, of Clapgate Lane, Ipswich, confessed to having a serious gambling problem and said he deliberately broke the law so he would be banned.

HELPLESS gambler Darren Towns today told how he could end up losing everything because he finally snapped after wasting thousands of pounds in fruit machines over nearly 20 years.

The father-of-six claimed frustration over the denial of his requests to be banned from the Showboat in Westgate Street, Ipswich, led him to lash out at a machine and threaten an arcade worker while on a £600 losing streak.

Towns was a 16-year-old Suffolk College student when the gambling bug bit.

He and his friends used to go a café on the corner of Eagle Street and Upper Orwell Street in Ipswich during dinner breaks to play a fruit machine.

Towns said: “It used to be a laugh to go on the 10p machine every day. That's what got me hooked.

“Because I was addicted to that one I wanted to go further. I started to go into a pub playing on bigger machines and all of a sudden the Showboat opened and that was a big mistake.”

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The 34-year-old said he began gambling at the arcade with £25, before graduating to hundreds of pounds.

“All my wages used to go in there. The last time it was £800. I've asked time and time again to be banned. They did it once for about a week-and-a-half. They know I have six children, but they were not prepared to ban me (permanently).

“When I get paid the first thing I do is go down the Showboat. Anyone can tell you I have stuck so much money in machines, literally thousands. I could have had my own home, my own car. Gambling's put me in debt. I'm behind with my bills and all just to feed my addiction basically.”

Towns said although he has a compulsion to gamble, fruit machines and the Showboat in particular are his addiction. He claimed he had never gone into a bookmakers and although online poker is a temptation he and his wife Tracey have taken precautions to ensure he can not play with real money.

The strain of gambling debts, which Towns estimates as around £10,000 to £11,000, has put a tremendous strain on their nine-year relationship.

Towns, of Clapgate Lane, Ipswich, said: “We have destroyed all the credit cards in this house. Tracey has warned me if I carry on I would lose everything, the children, the home and her. We scrimp and scrape at the moment.”

Towns said he had piled all his wages into machines on the day he blew his top at the Showboat.

“I got paid from Crane's before I did the machine. I got paid £800 and the whole lot went in there.”

Lack of willpower to beat his gambling addiction has seen him end up in desperate straits and he often comes home penniless, despite his wife's efforts to prevent him going to the arcade.

He said: “I have to come back and lie and make out I have lost my wallet or I have left my shopping on the bus. Tracey makes out she believes me, but she knows I'm lying.

“She says 'if you are going into town you must take one of the children with you', but I make an excuse. I hate lying to her.

“I just feel that because we are in so much debt I'm going to have that chance of winning something, so then I can cover a few more bills. It doesn't work that way, but I just don't learn.

Towns stressed the outburst which led him to court was uncharacteristic. Now, to avoid temptation, he has changed his job and works for a security firm around Kent, London and Essex doing 12-hours shifts on as many days of the week as he can, to pacify his obsession and pay off debts.

But still he can not shake off memories of the day it all became too much.

He said: “If I lose, I lose with dignity. I was about £86 up at the time on another machine. In the end the temptation got to me and I went on it (the machine he damaged).

“When you are in there you just can't walk out. I always lose but you never see that. Christ, I could have had shares in the place by now.

“I can't walk by there and not go in. There are times I have been in town and have left my wife outside in the cold and felt guilty for doing it.

“I feel helpless. I have sold my rings, necklaces, my bracelets, just to find money to play on the machines. I need to stop myself now “If I do a prison sentence I will have lost everything. I hope it does not turn out that way.”

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DARREN Towns was at the end of his tether and wanted to be banned from an Ipswich games arcade when he threatened an attendant he blamed for losing him £600.

When he appeared before magistrates Towns confessed to having a serious gambling problem and said he deliberately broke the law so he would be prohibited from entering the Showboat in Westgate Street.

Towns, a security guard, is a regular at the arcade and is a known addict to the arcade's staff, a court heard.

The 34-year-old pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage to a games machine and to using threatening and abusive behaviour to a member of staff, when appeared he appeared at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court in Ipswich.

In court, Towns, representing himself, said: “I've been playing there for years and had asked the manager to ban me before.

“She did but it only lasted a couple of weeks and then said I could go back - which is a stupid thing to say to someone who needs help.”

Towns said a staff member had told him to go and play on the machine because a lot of money had been put in but he was soon £400 down.

He said: “He then had the cheek to tell me to walk away. I carried on and got £600 down and he told me to walk away again. That's when I shouted at him.”

Margaret Cutts, prosecuting, told the court Towns' actions were a call for help.

She said: “He's a gambling addict and thought the only way out was to be banned from the arcade.

“He saw it as a distorted way of helping himself from the addiction.

“The defendant put a lot of money into the new £500 jackpot machine over the course of a few hours.

“He blamed the member of staff for him losing money and then slammed an ashtray into a machine.

“He was using bad language and when the man told Towns it wasn't his fault he had lost the money, the abuse began.”

Simon Thomas, managing director of Thomas Estates which runs the Showboat arcade, said that Mr Towns had now been banned indefinitely.

He said: “All our staff are properly trained and if anyone wishes to be banned they can sign a self-exclusion form which lasts for a minimum of six months.”

He added: “Gambling addiction happening in arcades is much less common than in places like bookies.”

Towns will appear before Ipswich magistrates for sentencing on Thursday, October 13.

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