Mark King’s remarkably honest interview with Hector Nunns in today’s Independent on Sunday lifts the lid on his addiction to gambling, which came close to losing him his marriage, his career and his life.
King admitted to being suicidal after squandering £500,000 gambling and was even in the early stages of planning a robbery to fund his addiction.
Thankfully, he realised that he had to change and made positive steps to do so. He attends Gambling Anonymous once a week, which he credits with rescuing him from the abyss.
King is a player who has always had a hard edge of bravado about him but is, in fact, a decent bloke dedicated to his family. It was ultimately for their sake that he sought help.
Snooker was once indebted to the tobacco industry. Now it’s the gambling sector pumping most of the sponsorship money into the sport.
I have no problem with this. Their financial assistance is welcome. Betting, like any other activity, is not damaging in moderation.
But the age of internet betting brings its own dangers. Most sports are now tainted, whether fairly or not, by claims of match fixing and every major sport is the target of those who wish to influence results, due in part to the multitude of bets available online.
The mystery to me about last year’s cricket fixing scandal involving members of the Pakistan team was why anyone would want to bet on when a no-ball would occur during a match.
It seems to me some bookmakers invite cheating by offering bets on ridiculous things like what time the first throw-in will happen in a football match.
Some gamblers take out their frustrations at losing on the players themselves, accusing them of cheating just because they have not delivered the result the punter bet on.
I had one email from a reader/gambler recently – who had spread bet on 50 breaks and lost – which ended in the words ‘snooker’s bent and you know it!’
Actually, I know that it isn’t. I also know that some gamblers cannot see that players are human and sometimes play badly just because, for whatever reason, they can’t get going that day.
Despite the dangers and pitfalls, I'm not anti-gambling. Like any other activity, some people can gamble for fun without any hugely negative effect. Others become addicted. This is not the fault of the activity itself but a fact of individual personality.
I’m glad Mark has sorted himself out. He is right to mention the gambling culture in snooker. As he says, this is mainly low key, the odd football coupon or horse race, but he ended up being sucked into a spiral of compulsion that almost cost him everything.
Other players, particularly those coming into the professional ranks, would do well to read his cautionary tale.
Read the story here.