|A UK man who became addicted to gambling at Internet casinos committed suicide after amassing debts of over £53,000 ($72,820).|
The Guardian carries the story today of how Mario Opalka, aged 44 from Blackburn, became addicted to online casino gambling after his wife, Eileen, died from lymph cancer in September 2000. He committed suicide in January this year after amassing debts of over £53,000 ($72,820).
Opalka had a good run initially, winning $15,000. But he continued to gamble, acquiring 19 credit cards to service his habit, with limits on each card of up to £6,000 ($8,240)
Deputy coroner Carolyn Singleton described Internet casinos as “wicked” and said that they exploited Opalka’s vulnerability due to his recent loss. 'This man nursed his wife through a horrible illness and subsequent death and found that extremely difficult to cope with,' she said.
Opalka’s son Jonathan yesterday called for legislation against credit card companies to prevent more cases like that of his father. 'I will not rest until I find out why these credit card companies handed so much money out to my dad without realising he didn't have any in the first place,' he said.
'It is an absolute disgrace that someone like my dad, who needed help, was just given an even bigger push towards taking his own life….I am calling on our MP, Jack Straw, to do something now before someone else has to go through the same fate.'
Opalka apparently had taken to staying home from work to gamble online day and night. He confided the extent of his debt to his son a fortnight before his death. But when Jonathan contacted the casino by email explaining the situation, all it offered, he said, was $2,000.
'That knocked him sick,' said Jonathon. 'He had dug a hole so deep he couldn't see a way out. No matter what I said to him it didn't make him feel any better. We could have re-mortgaged the house and sorted it out that way but he wouldn't listen. I think he was ashamed.'
Gamblers Anonymous said 375,000 people in the UK have a gambling problem. A spokesman said it was not unusual for people to commit suicide because of gambling debts.