Matt's story - one man's road back from ruin
(ROSS IRBY - by permission of Central Coast Express Advocate)
POKER machines are a major social evil, a reformed Central Coast gambling addict said. They cost him relationships, hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and, possibly, a stroke caused by financial stress.
Mathew Turnbull, a father of two from Toukley, said his addiction took over his life at 18 as he poured all of his earnings as a brick layer into poker machines. He said he could have bought two or three homes with the money he wasted over 20 years – instead he rents and at 39 is recovering from a stroke.
"It was just so easy going into clubs and always thinking you were going to win, but you never win really," he said. He always found himself in front of the machines after work. It was nothing for him to blow $200 to $300 in one session. When this was eaten up, he would go and look for a mate to borrow more money.
"You come home and say: 'Sorry, there is no money to pay the rent'," he said. "And you lie to cover up your gambling."
He said he had beaten the problem thanks to help from the Central Coast Problem Gambling Service. Mr Turnbull now wants to encourage others to tackle their gambling problems. "It can be done," he said. "I just wish I had done it years before. I've come a long way since I started – I've got money and even a boat."
Suffering a stroke just before Christmas was the beginning of his recovery process. "The stroke was a stroke of luck as it made me go and do something about it," he said. Receiving plenty of support from his parents, Mr Turnbull phoned G-line (their posters are in many clubs) and for more than six months he has seen a counsellor with Central Coast Problem Gambling.
He also tackled his serious financial problems with help from The Entrance Neighbourhood Centre.
"I think they're evil machines but I can now go into a club and not go near them," he said.