Never Enough Zeroes: Joel Soper on battling his gambling addiction

Joel Soper RGEM
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As Responsible Gambling Education Month draws to a close, SBC Americas wanted to consider a different point of view. We’ve heard from operators, the American Gaming Association, and regulators about the importance of responsible gambling. Who we haven’t heard from are those coping with gambling addiction themselves.

Joel Soper has been betting most of his life. A horse racing bet in 1987 led to a life where addiction took over, resulting in money lost, jail time, and even being physically beaten when he was unable to pay up.

In his book, Never Enough Zeroes, Soper gets extremely candid about his downward smile. It reads like someone who is still in the midst of it, which is not far off from the truth. When SBC Americas spoke to Soper earlier this month, he said he had not bet in six months. The book was published in April, so the memoir was written with his experiences gambling still very fresh in his memory.

Soper acknowledged his struggles are ongoing and even pointed out that, with football now underway, the urge to bet will only be harder to battle.

“It’s been over six months, and I am not going to sit here and sugarcoat it, you know, we got football season coming up. So, it’s a little bit hard, but I’m hanging in there and that’s why I keep doing podcasts, I talk to people on the phone almost every day. I’ve been written up a lot. So, this is kind of like my lifeline to stay sober in a way,” Soper explained.

While he did it for himself, the response from others is an added bonus.

“It was more to help myself with than anything else. I mean, I wish I could lie and say it was to help other people. But, you know, it turns out just from the responses that I’m getting that it is resonating with some people.”

For him, speaking openly about his addiction serves as a form of accountability. That is not the only reason why Soper and others think the topic of problem gambling needs to come out of the shadows. When asked about what he thought the biggest misconception was about gambling, he was frank in his response.

“That it is not gonna hurt you.”

Soper acknowledged the percentage of gambling addicts is relatively small compared to the betting population, but to him, the rapid expansion of betting and, more importantly, betting advertising, could lead an “epidemic.”

“This thing will just, it will it will take in and spit you out. I honestly believe that it you have to nip it in the bud before you get started,” he added.

For him, the process of quitting was exceptionally difficult, hence the focus on prevention. As someone who has taken part in programs like Gamblers Anonymous, he found trying to treat his betting addiction the same way as drugs and alcohol is ineffective because it is a whole different problem.

FanDuel’s work with Craig Carton is an example of what Soper calls a “step in the right direction” as to how operators can openly address the issue. He also hoped that, like Carton, his story can continue to inspire others to seek help.