Allen Christensen

Former AFL Player

Allen Christensen

My family owned horses and I started young around horse racing. It’s so ingrained in Aussie culture. It progressed through school friends who loved racing but went from just racing to how much money we could get our hands on as 14 year olds to get mates try to put a bet on for us.

A colleague, the football manager, came to my house and called me out on my gambling - it hit me between the eyes having a strong conversation. It was the conversation I needed to have, strong yet caring to get the right message across. I was getting paid pretty well for a 19-year-old, and had a lot of money and down time. I filled in the time between football with gambling. I wasn’t gambling for fun – footy broke the pattern.

My relationships became toxic because I was using them to get extra cash, have more money to bet with. Close friends became enablers. There are lies and manipulation when you are an addict. The real benefit was telling people about it and the feeling of being held accountable.

As an athlete, you are very strong willed so as soon as I was confronted about it, I stopped. Speaking to other people about lived experiences, being able to share stuff and talk is stronger than treatment for me. My life now is completely different now to back then. I am married with a daughter, am saving money, have started a podcast and am now over 6 years without a bet.

Peer support is huge – you can relate to someone who has been through something similar, it is the strongest most powerful thing . But there is a stigma ingrained in Australian culture around gambling addiction – we aren’t sure how to approach the issue or person and that needs to change.