'I lost complete control': Retired B.C. Lion Angus Reid opens up about gambling problem
With the help of the BCLC Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program and family support, Reid overcame his gambling problems and hopes to motivate others with his story
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Many know Angus Reid as the gregarious individual who carved out a 13-year Canadian Football League career with the B.C. Lions.
Not many know, however, that between 2007 and 2008, the now retired Lions’ centre waged a personal battle he says left him without any money, forced him to move back in with his parents for a time and jeopardized his football career, the same one that endeared him to local fans, earned the respect of teammates and coaches, resulted in two Grey Cup championships and helped shape him as an ambassador in the community.
On Thursday, Reid will speak at a Surrey Board of Trade event. Keynote speaking is nothing new to him. This time, however, he will reveal to the audience that he had a gambling problem.
That gambling problem, he detailed in a phone interview with Metro on Wednesday, quickly turned from something casual with friends at the casino to “an isolated escape from my own reality” that soon spiraled beyond his control for a year and a half.
“A lot of things in life were kind of unraveling behind the scenes. I had a marriage that was falling apart,” he said.
“I think what happened was … you look for outlets to pull yourself into to deal with problems that are happening.”
This outlet, he said, cost him money, kept him awake for three straight days and, on one occasion, nearly caused him to miss a CFL game. Reid said that after losing track of time while playing cards in a casino, he came running into the locker room while his teammates were going onto the field for warm-ups for a 2 p.m. kickoff.
“You look at most athletes or people that chase success at anything – they’re generally hyper competitive … and they have this delusional belief they can always will things to win. They can always win,” said Reid.
“That’s generally how you make it in sports or anything. You have to have those characteristics. And the problem with something like gambling, when you’re having issues in life and your life falls out of balance, and you lose focus and perspective on what matters, those traits can be easily consumed in a casino setting.
“All of a sudden, you’re there for 20 hours straight. You’re almost missing a game. I mean, almost missed a game once. I lost complete control of what I was doing in my life.”
As problems in his life mounted, local casinos provided a place for Reid to hide and avoid it all.
“They always greet you and you can stay as long as you want,” he said.
“For the longest time, you could stay, as long as you had money to spend – until that all ran out.”
Reid was asked if he ever bet on CFL or B.C. Lions’ games. He replied that he did not, adding he didn’t bet on sports.
He would spend time at the casinos, playing cards, Blackjack his game of choice.
He would sit down at the tables, often by himself, he said, playing Blackjack for hours.
“I hate to use the word ‘compulsive’, but I needed it now. I needed it again and again and again. I could spend hours there with the cards,” he said.
He said his teammates at the time knew he spent a large portion of time in casinos, but not many knew the depths of his gambling problem.
“I don’t know if the coaching staff really knew. But the problem was … I was losing weight. I wasn’t working out. I was starting to sort of deteriorate as a person, too,” he said, later adding he contemplated retirement from football in 2008.
For Reid, football games actually provided an escape from the escape of the hustle and bustle of the tables, the bright lights and ringing noises of the casino.
Rock bottom came in 2008, when he had to move back in with his parents, without any money, and explain to them the depths of his gambling. He also entered into the BCLC Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program for three years.
According to BCLC’s website, only the individual can enroll themself in the program, which then excludes that person from gambling facilities or their online account at PlayNow.com.
Reid said the potential embarrassment of being removed from a casino under this program, and possibly being recognized given his public persona with the Lions, was enough to eventually dissuade him from going in.
He also counts himself fortunate that his family supported him the way they did during such a difficult time.
“I leaned on them hard. It was an embarrassing time to have to let them know how I had let things fall apart,” he said.
As he worked to overcome his gambling problems, he used football to help him get his priorities back in order, as well as regain his pride and self esteem.
“That was my career. I was too young to be finished,” he said.
“There was a moment I thought about retiring because maybe I needed to fix my whole life up. But then I thought I need football now more than ever.”
Thanks to the support of his family and the Self-Exclusion Program, Reid says that he’s been in casinos since – for parties or events with friends – but he no longer has the urge to go or to gamble. He does worry, however, that if he were to be alone in a casino and he started playing again, he doesn’t know if he could stop.
“I just don’t bother putting myself in that situation,” he said.
Perspective goes a long way. He has since re-married. He and his wife also now have a four-month old son.
By speaking about overcoming his own gambling problem, he hopes to inspire others who might be going through the same thing to come forward for help.
“I’ve lived it. If it can be a source of motivation … then there was some value in what I went through.”