Teacher reveals he racked up £250K debt amid gambling addiction

Teacher, 33, who racked up £250,000 of debt and once bet and lost £50,000 on one horse at Cheltenham reveals he had 23 pay day loans and owed 113 people at the height of addiction that left him suicidal

  • Patrick Foster, 33, of Oxford, started betting with friends at Durham University
  • Spiralled out of control when he won £35,000 in one hit while living in London
  • Began chasing big wins, betting more and more money and falling into debt
  • Ended up with 76 online betting accounts, 23 payday loans and owed 113 people
  • Saved from ending his life by text from brother. Will take 15 years to pay off debts

A teacher whose gambling addiction saw him rack up £250,000 of debt and once bet and lose £50,000 on a single horse at Cheltenham has turned his life around after hitting rock bottom and wanting to end it all.

Patrick Foster, 33, of Oxford, started betting casually with friends at Durham University, but it spiralled out of control when, after moving to London and landing a well-paid job in the City, he won £35,000 in one hit.

At that point his relationship with gambling changed and he began chasing big wins – betting increasingly larger sums of money and falling further into debt. After changing careers and becoming a teacher, he began borrowing money off his students’ parents and his colleagues.

By the beginning of 2018 he admitted things were out of control. He told the BBC: ‘I had 76 different online betting accounts and 23 payday loans. I had borrowed money off 113 different people and I had £250,000 worth of gambling debt that needed to be paid back immediately.’

Patrick Foster, 33, of Oxford, started betting casually with friends at Durham University, but it spiralled out of control when, after moving to London and landing a well-paid job in the City, he won £35,000 in one hit (pictured now)

After placing a £50,000 bet on the Cheltenham Gold Cup and watching the horse lose, he decided to end his life – but was saved by a text from his brother. Patrick has since turned his life around and now gives talks warning young people about the dangers of gambling.

He’ll be paying off his debts for the next 15 years, and has penned a book about his experience in the hope that sharing his story will help make a difference to people who have gone down a similar path.

While growing up, Patrick dreamed of becoming a professional cricket player, and won a sports scholarship to Oundle School in Northamptonshire, one of the top schools in the country.

At 18 he signed a two-year professional contract with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club and was picked for the England under-19s squad.

Deciding to get a degree as a ‘back-up’, Patrick got a place at Durham and experienced his first trip to the bookies when a group of lads invited him along during freshers’ week. 

Patrick got a place at Durham, and experienced his first trip to the bookies when a group of lads invited him along during freshers’ week

After winning £250 on a lucky roulette spin, Patrick was hooked and began to gamble more regularly after he injured his ankle, meaning he couldn’t play cricket. 

It slowly began to take over his life and started to impact his cricket – and when he was let go by his coach, it hit him hard.

Patrick moved to London and worked his way up the career ladder in the City, landing a promotion and a pay rise with a chunky bonus. To celebrate, he put £500 on a football accumulator and won £34,988.

‘The feeling it gave me was like nothing else. It totally changed my relationship with gambling,’ he told the BBC. ‘Every time I placed a bet, I thought I would win £35,000. If I didn’t, I thought I would win it again at some point.’ 

He admitted smaller wins failed to give him the buzz he craved, so he began betting larger amounts – several thousands – on horses, leading him to lose that money within five weeks. 

After winning £250 on a lucky roulette spin, Patrick was hooked and began to gamble more regularly after he injured his ankle, meaning he couldn’t play cricket (pictured as a young player). It slowly began to take over his life and started to impact his cricket – and when he was let go by his coach, it hit him hard

Before long he’d maxed out his overdraft, taken out two bank loans and missed a rent payment and decided to confide in his parents – but when it came to telling them, he couldn’t do it.

Instead, he decided to change career and got a job teaching history and Latin in Oxford. But he continued to gamble and – now on a much reduced salary – his debts continued to spiral, prompting him to take out more loans and credit cards.

Desperate for cash and surrounded by wealthy people, he made up stories so that they’d lend him money. 

‘I told them the taxman was after me, I said I had crashed my car and that I needed money on a short-term basis,’ he recalled. ‘At the end of 2016, I decided to move schools because I was worried I would be found out.’ He even lied to new girlfriend Charlotte, too scared to tell her the truth.  

After changing careers and becoming a teacher, Patrick began borrowing money off his students’ parents and lying to his colleagues

By 2018 he was gambling huge amounts of money all day and night, and feared he’d lose his job when the headteacher at his new school opened an investigation into him after receiving complaints from teachers and parents.

It was at this point he took the ultimate gamble on Cheltenham Festival’s headline race – putting £50,000 on ‘Might Bite’, which lost by a length.

‘A few days later, I resigned from my job and I picked up my car keys and drove round for three hours. I decided to end my life because I felt like there was no other option,’ he told the BBC.

He texted his younger brother telling him his plan, who tried to call him before sending him a text urging him not to go through with it because his family and girlfriend wouldn’t cope.

With his family’s support, Patrick spent a stint in rehab before contacting the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) who helped him get back on his feet emotionally and financially

Patrick began working for EPIC Risk Management, a consultancy that helps prevent gambling-related harm, and has given talks at more than 200 schools, 100 sporting organisations and 50 businesses

Patrick said that was the moment he stopped thinking about himself and began considering other people, and took the difficult step of telling his loved ones everything.

With their support he spent a stint in rehab before contacting the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) which helped him get back on his feet emotionally and financially.  

Patrick began working for EPIC Risk Management, a consultancy that helps prevent gambling-related harm, and has given talks at more than 200 schools, 100 sporting organisations and 50 businesses.

‘If I can make a difference to one person then it will all be worthwhile,’ he said. ‘It is my way of saying thank you to the people who have saved my life.’ 

For confidential support, log on to samaritans.org or call the Samaritans on 116123 

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