Gambling Debt? Recovery Is Possible

I recently worked with a retired and widowed client who came to MNP inquiring about possible debt solutions. He owed more than $120,000 on various credit cards and lines of credit which he was frightened he could never pay back in his lifetime.

Struggling to make friends, he began frequenting local casinos with some acquaintances to stave his loneliness. That quickly spiraled into an unsustainable and out of control gambling addition. Though his problem was compounding, he was hesitant to stop or seek help for fear of returning to isolation. It was only when he could no longer afford the minimum payments that he admitted it was time to make a change.

Together, we reviewed his options and determined a Consumer Proposal would be the best way to pay back his debts, keep his assets and start fresh. Given the depth and severity of his problem, however, his rehabilitation would require more than simply making monthly payments.

No More Credit Cards and Lines of Credit

As my client admitted that easy access to funds was a major contributor to his gambling debt, our first was for him to permanently surrender control of his credit vehicles — which included several credit cards and a large line of credit. I (his Licensed Insolvency Trustee) handled repayment of those accounts through the duration of his Consumer Proposal. And once complete, we closed the accounts.

Ulysses Contracts

A Ulysses contract is a binding agreement one enters willingly to ensure he follows through with a present decision in future circumstances. These agreements can take several forms, but generally involve the promisor (in this case, my client) relinquishing his decision-making power in situations where he knows he may be susceptible to faltering. 

Gaming Self-Exclusion Program

Many local and provincial jurisdictions — and individual casinos — have programs which allow customers to voluntarily disallow themselves from any gambling winnings for a fixed or indefinite period. My client chose to sign himself up for one such program to remove the temptation of playing by eliminating the potential payoff.

Dual Signature on Bank Accounts

My client also worked with his banking institution to implement a dual signature requirement on all his personal accounts. While he could still process regular bill payments and debit transactions as usual, he would no longer be able to withdraw money from an ATM. Whenever he requires cash, he must bring his accountability partner to the bank to authorize the transaction.

Mental and Emotional Health Treatment

Both the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Chinese Family Services of Ontario (CFSO) offer provincially-covered offer support services through the Problem Gambling Treatment Service which my client took advantage of. These programs helped him dig to the root of his gambling addiction and offered coping strategies to assist in his ongoing recovery.

Healthy Network Building

One reason for my client’s gambling addiction stemmed from the friends and acquaintances he made frequenting the casino. But while a strong social network is essential for health and longevity, these toxic relationships were detrimental to his long-term financial and emotional health. During his financial counselling sessions, we identified several events and programs at local community centres where he could build a better, more productive connections aligned with his debt-free values.

Rebuilding

With the stipulations above and an agreed $800 per month repayment plan over the next 60 months, my client was noticeably relieved when his creditors unanimously agreed to the terms of his consumer proposal. Though he has a long road to travel until his compulsions subside and he’s repaid his debts — and has several key responsibilities to honour — he’s admitted that he feels freer now than he has for a long time. He’s told me that he no longer feels trapped by the casinos nor his creditors and simply addressing the situation has removed a massive weight from his shoulders.

Life-Changing Debt Solutions

Gambling debt and the associated stresses can feel overwhelming. But you don’t have to deal with it alone. From treatment to debt-relief, there is help available to get your life and your finances back on track.

During a free confidential consultation, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee will review your entire financial situation and identify options for relief. Whether you’d benefit from a Life-Changing Debt Solution — such as a Consumer Proposal or bankruptcy — or another opportunity, they’ll help you make the right decision for your unique situation. They can also refer you to other services in your area to support your journey to wellness and ensure you achieve the permanent financial fresh start you deserve.