St. Mary’s CBS
On Friday 8th February 2019, Tony O’Reilly visited our school to give a lecture on gambling awareness. Tony himself had struggled seriously with gambling in his past. To start the talk, he explained that he did not intend to deliver to us an anti-gambling message, but rather make us aware as to when gambling can become a dangerous addiction.
Tony then began to tell us his story. He told us that he placed his first ever bet in a Paddy Power bookie’s in 1998. It was a simple £1 pound bet on the result of that year’s World Cup. He won the bet and soon realised, or thought at least, that gambling was an exciting and thrilling way to make mass sums of money. Tony made it clear to us that, though he didn’t realise it at the time, he had begun his downward spiral into gambling addiction.
As the talk progressed Tony shared with us a number of photos of major milestones in his life such as; his wedding and the birth of his child. He explained that all these moments were marred due to the insurmountable amounts of debt he owed as a result of his gambling addiction. Along the course of the lecture there were a number of “ask-the-audience” sections where a question would appear on the board and each student could key in their answers on remotes that Tony had handed out. This was a fun and interactive method of keeping the class engaged throughout.
The more we learned of Tony’s story, the more tragic his situation became. It was obvious that gambling addiction affected every single aspect of his life and he could see no way out. The figures he discussed seemed almost impossible to believe. For example, in 2010 he lost over €10 million through gambling. By the end of that year, Tony’s whole life seemed to have drowned in a deep sea of debt.
Tony revealed to us that he eventually spent 18 months in prison as a direct result of his gambling problems. However, he told us that his time incarcerated changed him for the better and he has since found a new lease of life. Though we all felt great sympathy for Tony, he enlightened us that he has made serious changes in order to live a happier and healthier lifestyle. It truly was a story of redemption at the end of the day.
Tony has since written a book, “Tony10” about his experience with gambling addiction and how it quickly consumed his entire lifestyle. This is a book I would highly recommend reading to anyone who feels they or someone they know has a gambling problem, or if you are simply interested in the topic.
All in all, Tony O’Reilly’s visit and lecture made a huge impact on all of us and we were all struck by how sincere and down-to-earth he was. Despite the hardships that befell Tony, his story is an inspirational one as well as being a cautionary tale.