‘I lost £20m gambling and my marriage has never recovered’

From the outside, the lives of the super-rich may seem enviable.

But for those who grew up in the opulent world of trust funds, elite boarding schools and vacations on private Caribbean islands, their privilege often comes with a hidden price.

For 55-year-old artist Edward Benson*, that price was around £20 million, which he lost after becoming addicted to high-stakes gambling.

Benson would spend up to £500,000 a night and ended up facing threats from casino bodyguards over debts and contemplating suicide.

Experts warn that you are far from alone, as the number of these players increases every year.

“I come from a wealthy family and my father taught me how to play blackjack and poker when I was a kid,” he says. “He could gamble in moderation, but in my case, as soon as I turned 18, my drinking and gambling were out of control.”

By the time Benson was 25, he had racked up a £250,000 casino bill. The owners, he explains, began to get “aggressive.” This took the form of subtle psychological pressure, where the presence of the casino’s bodyguards increased the feeling of intimidation.

Scared, he asked his father for the money. His father paid, limited his access to family money and then sent Benson to a treatment center to seek help.

For 15 years, Benson managed to stop drinking and gambling. He also managed to build a career, meet his wife and have three children. But when he was 40 years old, his parents died, leaving him a huge inheritance.

“I started playing online secretly,” he says. “Only 50 pounds or so. No one can see you, so it seems harmless.

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“But the small amounts soon stopped giving me any rush, so I bet £10,000 and then £20,000.

“Then I went back to the casinos and soon found myself regularly sitting at high-stakes poker tables with a buy-in of £500,000 on the table.”

In total, Benson, who lives in London, lost £20 million gambling, which was all the savings he and his wife had. “My family knew my history with gambling, so I had to do everything secretly,” he says. “I travel a lot for work, so I usually added a few extra days so I could spend them at casinos or poker tables.

“It got to the point where losing gave me panic attacks, and winning also gave me panic attacks because I knew that meant I would come back. My wife soon noticed the dramatic changes in my mood; If I had won big, I would go home elated, and if I had lost, I would feel terribly guilty.

“She assumed I was having an affair, but when I confessed what I was really doing after another fight, the betrayal she felt was immense; “We’re still trying to navigate it all these years later.”

After confessing what she was doing, Benson sought help from Recovery of Paracelsus, One of the most exclusive therapeutic retreats in the world. Located on the shores of Lake Zurich, Switzerland.

Costing around £100,000 a week, its clients include senior FTSE executives, royals and heads of state seeking help for a range of conditions and addictions. Among them are people like Benson, high rollers who wouldn’t mind spending millions in one night.

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