What started as a social outlet with his teammates quickly spiraled out of control for former CFL player Angus Reid, ending in a full-blown competitive addiction to gambling.
It’s a piece of the two-time Grey Cup champion’s life that few knew. It started during the 2007 and 2008 seasons as his first marriage was falling apart. Gambling, Reid says, was an outlet for him to hide and wash his problems away for more than a year.
“I’d go with the team after practice, it was a fun, social thing,” the now retired BC Lions’ centre said.
“But then it became less with other people and more by myself and it spun out of control quickly.”
On Thursday, Reid went public about his former gambling addiction at a Leadership Lunch hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade.
It’s perhaps difficult to imagine Reid, who had a 14-year career with the Lions, with no money, a huge debt, and living in his parents’ basement.
“It started off as $100, $200 then it got up to $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, $10,000 and honestly I would go until there was no way to get money that night,” Reid recalls.
“It escalated quickly because I’m so hyper-competitive and so stubborn and I have this delusional belief that you can always win, as a lot of athletes do. As soon as the losses mounted, you chase harder and it added it up pretty quick.”
If Reid had a free moment and access to money, he would head to the casino and play blackjack. He never gambled on sports, online or even bought a lottery ticket. Blackjack, he says, was the game that best worked with his personality and he never deviated from it.
Reid estimates losing about $50,000 during this period of his life.
Along with losing his money, Reid’s marriage fell apart and his health was also taking a hit. He wasn’t sleeping, he was losing weight and he was worried about keeping his career.
Once while caught in the throes of gambling at a casino in Saskatchewan, Reid almost missed a game.
“We were on a road trip and I was stuck in a casino because I had lost track of time. I realized it was a 2 o’clock kick off, and we were getting really close, and I yelled for a cab. I got there and the guys had already gone through warm-up. I almost missed the game.”
He chuckles wryly now but knows the optics of his comments.
“You look back now and it’s insanity. But when you’re in that moment, you don’t have reason, you have no clarity, you’re not thinking straight. It’s hard to comprehend that but because I’ve been through it, I understand how different a person you can become.”
In 2007 and 2008, Reid said he was lying to everybody. A few people knew he had a problem but admits “it’s hard to help someone that doesn’t want help.”
His rock bottom came when his marriage ended, his bank account was empty, had a huge debt and had to go live in his parents’ house.
“When there was nothing left to gamble, there was nowhere else to live, you had to go home and finally be honest; which was really hard because it’s embarrassing and you’re so ashamed. Especially the ones that care about you the most. You have to let them know that in your eyes you’ve let them down, that you’re a failure.”
With the help of his family, Reid started his climb out of his gambling addiction through the BC Lottery Corporation’s Voluntary Self-Exclusion program. The program allows a person to choose a period of time to be excluded from all facilities with slot machines, commercial bingo halls, or PlayNow.com for six months, one year, two years, or three years. There are roughly 9,000 people enrolled in the BCLC Self-Exclusion Program and according to a gambling study released in 2015, a little over three per cent of British Columbians have moderate to high gambling problems, with just under one per cent being considered high.
The program worked well for Reid because it was confidential and allowed him to forgo the embarrassment of having to disclose his addiction to the public.
“It was just a contract between myself and the casinos that they had the power to remove me if I came in,” Reid explains.
“I knew being a pro athlete and some people knowing who I was that I would never want to be in that embarrassing situation of being thrown out of casinos and people seeing me doing that. So that was incentive to keep me away for the brief moment at the beginning so I could begin the process of fixing my life.”
Jump to 2016 and Reid, who is now remarried with a four-month-old son and working as a commercial broker with Reliance Insurance and football analyst, says he’s a completely different person and considers himself as a success story.
This success is the reason he agreed to share his story when BCLC approached him to speak.
“I had to think about it and thought you know, that was eight years ago. I consider myself a success story. Why not? If it can help somebody, if it’s something that can be used for those that are thinking, ‘there is no hope, I’ll never get through this, there’s no tomorrow, I’ll never get around it.’ There is, and I speak from knowledge… It’s my truth, it’s my life and it’s so long ago for me that I have good perspective and I can look back and hopefully now use it for some good.”
Does Reid still have the urge to gamble? WATCH the extended interview and find out.