Q&A: Angus Reid got help tackling gambling

 

Ex-Lions star to speak on depth of destructive blackjack addiction

 
 
 
 
Former B.C. Lions centre Angus Reid won two Grey Cups and became a fan favourite, but a gambling addiction during the 2007 and 2008 seasons threatened to destroy his personal and professional life. ‘People need to know there are services out there to help,’ he says.
 

Former B.C. Lions centre Angus Reid won two Grey Cups and became a fan favourite, but a gambling addiction during the 2007 and 2008 seasons threatened to destroy his personal and professional life. ‘People need to know there are services out there to help,’ he says.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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The game was long over, but for Angus Reid another type of action was about to begin.

Hours after a Canadian Football League game played out at BC Place Stadium, the longtime centre of the Lions — a two-time Grey Cup champion — could be found at the blackjack tables, plunged into a competitive addiction to gambling.

Professional athletes must adhere to a code of conduct in regards to drugs, alcohol, even social media. But gambling?

During the 2007 and 2008 seasons, while his first marriage was coming apart, Reid admits he sought solace in the late hours at Richmond’s River Rock Casino. By the time his bank balance registered zero, his debts mounted into the tens of thousands of dollars, and he found himself living in his parents’ basement, Reid desperately looked for a way out.

He found it through the support of his family and the Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program of the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC), available at casinos and racetracks in the province.

Today, remarried, with a four-month-old son Brooks, the retired, 14-year Lion and commercial broker with Reliance Insurance goes public with his latent gambling problem for the first time. Reid is the guest speaker Thursday at a Leadership Lunch put on by the Surrey Board of Trade (Noon at Eaglequest Golf Course, 7778 152nd St).

Q: Some people say slots are the most addictive casino game. It’s repetitious, fast, full of light and sound and hypnotic. Why blackjack in your case?

A: It’s fast, simple and easy. As with most athletes, I have a hyper-competitive, stubborn personality. I became so competitive I couldn’t stop. I could sit there for hours, racking up money or losing money. When I lost, the only thing that mattered was winning the next hand. I got in deeper and deeper. I lost all reason. And I lost every penny I ever had.

Q: When this was happening, you were a high-profile member of the Lions. Were teammates or coaches aware of your addiction?

A: One or two around the team would have known. People might have suspected I was having a problem. But I don’t think anyone knew the extent. I did it alone. I was there for 15 hours (at a time). The worse it got, the more I hid.

Q: How were you able to function as an athlete, with all of this weighing on you?

A: I wasn’t sleeping, I was losing weight, my health was deteriorating and I was worried about keeping my career. My focus was elsewhere most of the time. But for three hours, the game itself was a break from the madness in my head. I was able to lose myself in the game. The second it was over, it got worse again.

Q: What was the hardest part in finally coming to grips with your addiction?

A: Being honest with yourself and the people you love. I lied to my family about where I was, what was happening. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Once we got beyond the tears and the shame, I started rebuilding my life, one day at a time, one dollar at a time (Reid estimates he lost about $50,000). Seven or eight years removed, I’m a success story on the other side. Maybe I can shed some inspiration for people dealing with their own addiction, the hopelessness, who feel they have no way out. I’ve been there. You can get through this. People need to know there are services out there to help.

Q: Do you buy lottery tickets? Can you go to a casino now and just play for fun?

A: I never buy lottery tickets. I’m not 100 per cent sure why. I can still go to a casino on a social basis, with friends, for parties and (concert) shows. The one thing I worry about is sitting down by myself, losing two or three hands, and falling into a compulsive habit again. I go with friends who look out for me. I’m smart enough not to put myself in that situation again.

mbeamish@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/sixbeamers

 
 
 
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Former B.C. Lions centre Angus Reid won two Grey Cups and became a fan favourite, but a gambling addiction during the 2007 and 2008 seasons threatened to destroy his personal and professional life. ‘People need to know there are services out there to help,’ he says.
 

Former B.C. Lions centre Angus Reid won two Grey Cups and became a fan favourite, but a gambling addiction during the 2007 and 2008 seasons threatened to destroy his personal and professional life. ‘People need to know there are services out there to help,’ he says.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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