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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with David Slack

John Bradshaw - Conversation with David Slack

John Bradshaw - Conversation with David Slack
TOPICS: Conversations, Gambling, Addiction

John Bradshaw: So how did you get involved in gambling?

David Slack: Well, when I was younger, John, a lot of, um, a lot of friends of my parents, used to come round and play cards. On a Sunday night, they had a Sunday night card school, and, um, now that I know, my father, he was a compulsive gambler as well, and my mum, she wasn't far off either. She loved gambling as well. And, uh, so, uh, I was introduced through this, this card game. My mum sometimes would let me play a hand while she went out to prepare the, uh, the evening, uh, snacks for the players, and, uh, and I used to sit listening, uh, to the radio. I was really, um, taken in by the commentary of, of, the patter of the commentator. And, uh, and so I would sit all Saturday sometimes and, uh, look at the paper, and, uh, pick horses out and imagine that they were running for me.

John Bradshaw: So how old were you at this time?

David Slack: Um, probably round about 9 or 10, somewhere round about there. Yeah, my grandfather also was a horse trainer, and, um, my father used to, um... he was a hairdresser, and, and at the hairdresser shops in those days there was always lots of talks about sport and gambling, those sorts of things, yeah.

John Bradshaw: So you're a kid, 9 or 10 years old, listening to Syd Tonks or somebody.

David Slack: Yeah, someone like that. Dave Clarkson.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

David Slack: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Commentating on the gallops from around the country.

David Slack: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: But that's all fairly innocent and innocuous. Where did this develop?

David Slack: Well, uh, I'd go to the races with my mum and dad, and, um...the thing to do was then, was to pick up all the tickets on the ground that people had thrown away and try and sort through and, and, uh, hopefully, someone had thrown away a winner or something like that, and you could cash it and get the money, and so at, at about, probably at about, um, maybe 13, I, I started going to the races... 12 or 13, probably 12 actually, when I look back now... I started going to the races, and I'd go down and walk horses, uh, after the race at the stables. Got to know, uh, trainers, and, and, uh, and they'd give you half a crown for, um... or two and six, or 25 cents as it is now... and, uh, they'd give you that much money to walk, cool their horse around after a race. And so, if you did that four times, you had what is now a dollar. Back then it was 10 shillings, but it was a dollar. And then, then, um, I started to, to, um, to ask some of the, the, the trainers if they thought that their horse would be worth putting a dollar on. And they'd say yea or nay, and so I'd get someone... because back in those days you had to be 21 to go and put money on in the tote, and so I'd ask someone could they go and put a dollar on for me. And, uh, and so that's where, really, where it started. And, um, you know, I can remember, I can remember really the, the first bet that I had, um, it won. And, uh, and it was, I can even remember the name of the horses, um, and it won. And, and it's really amazing that, um, at Gamblers Anonymous, that I'm involved in now, probably 90 percent or even more of the people that have come through said that the first time they've gambled they've won.

John Bradshaw: It's really interesting listening to you say this. I was going to ask you the question, "Were you successful as a kid gambling"? And you were successful on your first bet. You can remember the name of the horse and where you were.

David Slack: Yeah, yeah.

John Bradshaw: I can remember the name of the horse I first bought a ticket on. This was at the Pirongia races.

David Slack: Oh, yeah, the Pirongia...

John Bradshaw: Where they don't even have a totalizer; they have an equalizer. So you spend the money, and they give you a ticket...

David Slack: That's right.

John Bradshaw: ...for whatever it is.

David Slack: Yes.

John Bradshaw: And the horse that I had a dollar on won. And I don't know how... 7 years old? That was it.

David Slack: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: You start to figure out that you can give them a dollar and get five dollars and 60 cents back...

David Slack: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ..or more...

David Slack: Yep.

John Bradshaw: sets you on a new path.

David Slack: Yep, yep.

John Bradshaw: So you're 13...

David Slack: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...and the horse wins...

David Slack: Yep.

John Bradshaw: ...and how long before you are...okay, as a teenager... a gambler? Was that instant?

David Slack: Yeah, instantaneous for me, John, yeah. Uh, you know, I, I started to live and breathe horses. If the home life hadn't been enough, you know... I, I attended every race meeting that I could. Um, I, um, I stole to, to get money to gamble.

John Bradshaw: So once you started gambling, how quickly did you get from gambling to stealing to support your gambling habit?

David Slack: Not long after.

John Bradshaw: Yeah?

David Slack: Uh, it, it got to the stage where I probably, when I went to work...and I may have jumped a bit ahead here... but, um, I, probably by the time I was 20, I'd probably had maybe 20 jobs. And, and what happened was is that I'd work at the wool stores, and you'd only have to give an hour's notice, and night trots had started then, and so that, uh, they'd pay you straightaway, and you'd go to the night trots. And you'd lose your money, and, and that would happen 9 times out of 10, and, uh, and the next day I'd start a new job at another wool store. That's how easy jobs were to get. Uh, but quite often, um, you know, I'd go round the back of hotels, steal bottles. Back in those days you used to get sixpence for a large Coke bottle and threepence for a, for a small Coke bottle, and you'd, I'd take my duffle bag and fill it up and then go to a dairy and, and cash up. Um, I, I can often remember back in those days they used to deliver milk and, and bread and cream, and, uh, I'd just go along the road, it would be dark, and I'd be going into people's milk boxes and taking the money out. Um, and, uh, and that all, that all financed your gambling. And so that was sort of petty crime.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

David Slack: And then when I started work, I really, um, I ended up going into the snooker rooms, and, uh, and I wasn't much good at snooker, and there was always gambling card games going on down there. Um, there'd be a bookie down there who would take bets. And so then I started stealing, um, product from the company that I worked for, and that was, you know, that was really sad. And one day I got a knock on the door, and I was in bed, and my mum answered the door, and it was a policeman, and, and, um...

John Bradshaw: About how old were you at the time?

David Slack: About 17...16 or 17.

John Bradshaw: So at the age of 16, you were actually quitting jobs so you could go to the races at night. And then at the age of 16 or 17, you were stealing from your employer to support your gambling habit.

David Slack: Yep.

John Bradshaw: And, and so what happened?

David Slack: Well, they, uh, the company decided that they... probably the worst thing that happened... the company decided that they wouldn't press charges. And, um, and they even allowed me to work on until I, I, I said that I'd stolen about 60 pounds' worth of was back then... and so then I repaid that; they took that out of my pay. And then, I remember a section manager, who was a really nice guy, said to me, "Oh, look, David, you probably haven't got much future here, and it might be best that you went and, and got another job". And so I went on to another job, stole off them. I just kept on repeating and repeating.

John Bradshaw: Now, you said the worst thing was that they didn't press charges.

David Slack: Well, maybe if, at that stage if I'd been charged, maybe I would have got a fright, and, um, maybe that would have stopped me, but probably not, in hindsight. Uh...because, uh, it, it, being caught didn't stop me gambling. You know, I still carried on.

John Bradshaw: So what about people who were not, or are not, problem gamblers? What about them?

David Slack: I went, I went into the TAB one time when, um, when I'd stopped gambling, when God had healed me from my gambling addiction, and I, I wanted to go in there and put some signs up from Gamblers Anonymous, and, and, um, the manager of the TAB: "Oh, no, you can't put any of those signs up in here. Anyhow," he said, "there isn't many compulsive gamblers come in here". And I said, "Oh, how do you know"? And he said, "Oh, because we only have an odd guy that comes in and puts a hundred on. All those people that are putting two dollars each way or five dollars each way or a dollar each way"... the, the recreational, so-called recreational gamblers... "they're not compulsive". But you go out in the morning and you see them there, and they might only have an x amount of, of dollars, and, and it might only be 10, you might only have $20, but they're still compulsive gamblers because they gamble until that's gone. But you say the recreational gamblers... uh, I had an accountant who told me with great glee that he, he was a, a, a recreational gambler, and there are some people that are, but he, he would go with his wife, if he was on holiday, he'd be away somewhere, maybe in Australia, and go to a casino over there, and they'd say, "Right, we're going to gamble for 10 minutes. We've got $50. If we win, we'll go and have a meal. If not, well, we'll go and have a meal anyhow, and, and we'll have to pay for it". And so they, they, I guess that's their recreational, um, pleasure, I suppose. But... I haven't met many of those, John, you know. I haven't. Uh, uh, you know, they're, they're, I guess they're around somewhere, but, you know, again, there's, there's an old story that compulsive gamblers don't win. But I've, I've met compulsive gamblers who do win, but all their time is spent gambling. They're either poring over a race book, or they're in, they've got some system where they think they can win in the casino. And, and there are some... when I was a bookie, there were, there were people that used to bet with me that won, and it drove me mad. And you'd, in the end you'd want to sack them because you couldn't beat them.

John Bradshaw: So let's come back to this. What is gambling doing, by now, to your life?

David Slack: It's just taken over my life. I'm, I'm a slave to it, John. You, you don't, um, you don't realize that, of course, but you are a slave to your gambling addiction, and, um, it, it's affecting my life in all sorts of ways. You, when, when you're addicted, when you have an addiction, you, uh, opportunities in life slip by because you don't recognize them. Uh, I remember I, at about, hmm, 18 or 19, I got this really good job at a market and in, uh, Christchurch, but, uh, I didn't realize how good it was. Uh, and, um, because of my gambling addiction, I'd be playing cards halfway into the night or all night and supposed to start there at four o'clock in the morning, and I'd arrive at 10, uh, 10 past, and then 20 past, and then half past. And then I lost my job, this really good job. And so, it, it interferes in, in, in your life in many different ways and relationships. At that stage, at, um, 21, I... no, at 19...I got married, and, um, and, and that was a tragedy. I didn't know how to be a father. I didn't know how to be a husband. And I'd spent all my money gambling, and so, my, um, first son, um, his bassinet was a drawer, and he, he used to sleep in a drawer because I, I had no money to buy a bassinet for him. And so, um, you know, uh, that marriage didn't last very long. It was, um, you know, very dysfunctional.

John Bradshaw: How much of that was due to gambling?

David Slack: All of it. All of it. There weren't any other issues. It was all gambling. And, uh, you know, I, for food, I'd go from store to store. They used to have little dairies, um, on just about on every corner in, in, in most cities. And so you could go in, and, uh, you're allowed to get one pound ten's worth of credit back in those days, which was, which was a pretty good amount.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

David Slack: And so, um, you, you'd go and book it up, and then, uh, I'd just keep on traveling around in the vicinity that I was in and, and just, um, booking up things and, and never paying.

John Bradshaw: How low did gambling take you?

David Slack: The lowest point, probably, uh, when I was about 27. I was actually managing a produce department in a supermarket here in Hamilton. And, I kept that job for so long I don't know, but I guess God had given me a talent in that area, and, um, and then at 27, um, my marriage ended. Uh, I lost my job, and I lost my house. And my wife had, had paid me up, uh, the money that, I guess, had accumulated after about six years of it. And, uh, on the Friday, I remember she, she paid me out. Um, I just forget how much it was, but I went to the Tauranga races the next day and lost it all. So, that, that was a pretty low point. But, um, things went even lower after that. Um, it got really bad when I was 27, and, um, what was I going to do? You know, I had no income, so, at that stage I turned to crime, and I never worked for the next 13 years, just lived off the proceeds of crime to support my gambling addiction and got into all sorts of things that, uh, were just getting worse and worse. Um, I became, uh, I became... at about, um, at that stage, I remembered my father had, back in the old barber shop, used to be a small-time bookmaker. And, um, and in New Zealand, of course, it's illegal, but, uh, I decided, okay, um, there must be money in that, and so, um, I became a, um, a bookie here in New Zealand. Um, and, uh, that turned into a, um, a really huge business. I had people, uh, ringing in. I had an, an office here at one stage where I had a guy working for me, and, um, we had three phones going. I'd go out there as well at times, and, um, turned over enormous amounts of money. And, but it, it didn't matter, because no matter how much I won, I just gambled it away. And, um, and I thought I was smarter. I thought I was smarter than all, all the other gamblers.

John Bradshaw: Now, that's a dark world. You must have seen some interesting things.

David Slack: Yes. Um, probably, you know, once again, I didn't, I didn't, at that stage I didn't realize that people had gambling addictions. I just used to go around every Friday and collect and pay out money. And I remember there was a guy, um, that used to be the manager of one of the finance companies here, and, um, he, uh, was introduced to me by another guy. And this is couldn't advertise for customers, so it was word of mouth. And, and, um, because I'd, I'd built up a, a, a good reputation of, of paying and, uh, and there wasn't any problem with getting paid, and so this, this guy came along, and he introduced me to this finance manager. And, um, this was very early on in, in, in my bookmaking career. And, um, he said, "Look, I can't be seen with you". And he said, "What I'll do is I'll, uh, you tell me your telephone account number, and I'll give you mine, and if I win, you just put the money in my telephone account, and if I lose, I'll put it in yours". And back in those days that's how we used to put money in, and you'd pay, if somebody was betting with you from undercover, you'd put it in their telephone account, and they'd put it in mine if I lost. Anyhow, this guy carried on; um, after a couple of weeks, two or three weeks, he had, uh, lost 27,000. And, um, he, he, um, he said, "The money will be in your account on, uh, Friday". So, um, I'd been laying bets off with another bookmaker because I really didn't have that much money at that time to pay this guy out if he'd won lots. So, anyhow, out of it, I had to send 20,000 away to another bookmaker, and, um, so I'd won 7,000. And, um, when he started again the next Saturday, I thought, Okay, um, I, I won't lay any of these bets off. I'll be able to pay him until...if he wins the 7,000. Well, then I'll have to lay them off again. And, um, on that particular week he lost, um, 48,000. And so, um, at that stage I, I also got into a little fruit shop over in Tower Square. And, uh, anyhow, he said, "I, I've got a bit of good news," and he rang me up on the Wednesday and asked me how, how, how much that he owes; he said, "I've just got a promotion to becoming general manager in, in Wellington". And, uh, and so, I, I was really pleased. Anyhow, um, on the Thursday there was, uh, when I was opening the shop, um, this guy walked in, and he said, "I'm Detective" such-and-such, and, uh, "I believe that, uh, you're a bookmaker, and, um, you've been involved, uh, with this guy, and, um, he's been stealing money from the finance company, and, uh, he's just walked down and handed himself in". So, he ended up going to jail for, for quite some time. You know, that was, that was a horrible thing. And he...and I never realized until now that, you know... till, till I stopped gambling... that he was a compulsive gambler. But, um, yeah, so that was one of the incidences, um. So, yeah, that was, you know, seeing someone's life destroyed. His wife left him. He lost his job, and he ended up in jail.

John Bradshaw: So did it bother you at the time?

David Slack: No, no, not really, because the police didn't press any charges against me. Um, at, at that stage they, they, they didn't do that. But, um, over the years, I appeared in court on, on numerous occasions, uh, over gambling, uh, related offenses. I got arrested probably five or six, maybe more, times, for bookmaking; police would kick the door in, and, and, um, they were just there looking for evidences.

John Bradshaw: So why didn't you quit? Were you making too much money?

David Slack: Too much money, yeah. You know, for a compulsive gambler, you know, here it was. Um, you know, I had a, I had a flash car. I lived wherever I wanted to. If I ever wanted to hop on a plane, I could hop on a plane and fly off wherever I wanted to. And I just guess I thought that I was living the life of Jack the Lad. But all the time, of course, not knowing that I was a slave to the devil.

John Bradshaw: At some stage it occurred to you that you were a slave. Well, tell me how that unfolded.

David Slack: At this stage I'd, I'd met my wife, and, uh, my wife...well, we weren't, we were living in a, in a relationship, and, uh, I remember one time that, uh...on Christmas, Christmas day, the, uh... which is a horrible day because there's no gambling, back then on Christmas day... And, um, some of the, the, um, Asian people who I used to associate rung up and said, "What's happening"? And I said, "Oh, there's not much happening". And they said, "Oh, could we come round to your place and have a game of cards"? And I said, "Oh, that's a great idea"! And so, um, I said to Debbie, um...we had a little boy then... and I said to her, "Look, you've, you've got to take Michael out because, um, there's a card game going to be going on here"... on Christmas day this is... "and I don't want to be disturbed. We won't want to be disturbed". And so she had to leave the house. And then when she came, came back, hours later, she said, "That's it. I've had enough".

John Bradshaw: Christmas day?

David Slack: Yeah, Christmas day. She said, uh, "I'm, I'm moving out". And though we, we, we saw each other... we still saw each other; we were an item, I guess... um, she, she didn't, uh, she hated gambling. She hated it. And, uh, then, uh, I thought it was great, because all of a sudden I didn't have any, you know, there was no responsibility, and, uh, and that was sort of, you know, it was gone. And, uh, n..., I mean, compulsive gamblers are very selfish people. You know, it's about self. That's what it is. And, and being incredibly selfish, I thought, Oh, this is sort of like freedom. And there's no partner, and there's no child, and...not that I really spent that much time with him anyhow. It was horrible. Uh, once again, I didn't know how to be a husband or a father. But, um, you know, when I look back on that, I think, Wow, God was, was watching over her, more than me at that stage. Because not long after that, four guys broke into my house in the middle of the night, stuck a bayonet at my throat, and said, "We're going to kill you if you don't tell us where your money is.

John Bradshaw: So did you tell them?

David Slack: No. I said, "No, uh, there's no money here. You've come the wrong day". I said, "Collection day's Friday". "But Thursday, Thursday night's no good".

John Bradshaw: So somebody's got a bayonet at your throat, and you lie?

David Slack: Yeah, still lied, yeah. It was, um, there was actually money in the glove box in my car, and they went out and searched it and got it and, um, took off. So that was, that was a real blessing because Debbie wasn't there, and I'd hate to think what would have happened. Um, these were four pretty notorious, um, gangster type guys. So what would have happened, I don't know. So, she moved out, and then, once again, you're thinking on your feet all the time, and I thought the best thing I can say is, "Let's get married". I thought it should be, that'd be really good, you know; she'd, she'd like that. And she was pretty staunch. She said, "No. I'm not going to marry you. No, no, I don't want, I don't want this gambling in my life". But then I kept on, and finally she said, "Okay, look, here's the go. You know, we'll get married, but there's to be no gambling in the house. I don't want it on TV; I don't want people ringing up, putting bets on; I don't want card games going on here". And, um, because you're, once again, because you're a compulsive liar when you're a compulsive gambler... that's one of the traits that go with it... I said, "Yeah, yeah. No, no, none of that will happen". Full well knowing that once we were married, and I was back in, that things would just carry on. And then we were due to get married on the Saturday, and, uh, on Thursday morning, two days before we were due to get married, I woke up, and I had this amazing feeling, and, um...Debbie said, "What's up"? She's...and I'd stayed the night round at her place, and, uh, I said, "I don't know. I've just got this unusual feeling that, like, I don't want to gamble today".

John Bradshaw: So, that day, you had no urge to gamble?

David Slack: No, there was no urge. And, uh, and, uh, and then from that day to this... and that's, uh, 30 years ago now... I've never had any desire to gamble. It was a, it was, it was just a straight-out miracle. And I'd never asked God to, to heal me. Um, you know, I, I was really full-on in the life that I was living.

John Bradshaw: So what was this? How could, how could this have happened? Was someone praying?

David Slack: After we got married, uh, and Debbie didn't say anything on that, on that, that morning when I woke up, and, um, and then about a couple weeks later, she said to me, "Oh, I prayed". And I said, "What? What do you know about prayer"? Because she liked going to nightclubs and parties and things like that, you know. And I said, "What did you say"? And she said, "Oh, if there's a God out there, you know, I, I, I really don't want to marry David as a gambler. And, um, I've, I've tried to change him, but I, I can't. He doesn't listen to me. And if, if You could do that, I'd be really grateful". And so this was from someone who didn't, didn't really know anything about God, never been to a church or hardly at all, you know. Amazing, just an amazing miracle. Yeah. I still look back every day... you know, I'm so grateful that she prayed that prayer.

John Bradshaw: How did you get from that prayer to being a Christian?

David Slack: In a particular time in my first marriage, uh, I had ultimatums given to me. And, uh, so, um, I started coming to the Adventist church. Oh, oh, what happened was is that we had, uh, separated, and, um, I went and lived with this guy who turned out to be a Seventh-day Adventist guy. And, um, and he had invited me to stay at his place when we were separated. And then one night he said to me, "Would you like to look at the Bible"? And I thought, Oh, you got to be kidding me. I thought, Oh no. But because my, I'd sort of had some manners, I said...that my mum, my poor mum had put into me... I said, "Oh, okay then". And, uh, anyhow, he, he opened up the Bible and started showing these, these amazing things. And at that time, I thought, Wow! That's amazing! So I thought I was saved, if, that stage, when I was going to the Catholic church...I'd be going to heaven. And then I started coming to the Adventist church, and I thought, Oh, well, uh, I'm going to go to heaven if I go to the Adventist church. And I really didn't understand. I, I was amazed by what he showed me in the Bible, but I really didn't understand the love of Jesus. And, um, it wasn't long before I was out again. And, uh, but I'd had that experience in the Adventist church, and, you know, I, when God had done this amazing healing in my life, I, I mean, Debbie started coming along to the Adventist church, you know, in Hamilton, and it was just, you know, I just embraced...Jesus for what He'd done for me in my life. I, I guess I had this, an, an epiphany, John, you know, that, wow, this God is just totally amazing that He would do that.

John Bradshaw: Did you ever think of going back to gambling?

David Slack: No, no, no going back to gambling. People just couldn't believe it. In fact, all over New Zealand, people just couldn't believe it, that, that, um, you know, that, yeah, this David Slack had, had had this amazing change of, of life.

John Bradshaw: So gambling had been this really big part of your life, and now it's just gone. So what did you do?

David Slack: I didn't know what I was going to do, John. I didn't know, you know. I, at that stage I was totally reliant on God. I had no idea what I was going to do, and, uh, because I was going to the markets, uh, a, um, and at that stage, 1997, the share market had just collapsed, and, uh, there were a lot of people in debt, and I, I was buying for a couple of Asian guys. I still went buying for them, though I wasn't gambling with them, and I was earning a really, a minimal amount of money. But man, were we really happy! You know, um... sometimes we, uh, we had Weetabix and rice risotto. We had that for ages and ages; that's what we could afford. And, um, and then I was out at the market this day, and the guy was, the guy, the manager of the market was a Christian, and this guy came in and said, "Oh, look, I'm looking for someone to buy for my brother-in-law's shop, who's fled New Zealand, and because he owes so much money"...and he said to me, "Sell the shop and at least pay the market the money that I owe them, and that'll be the debt cleared". And so I started buying for this guy's business, and it was only turning over $750 a week, so it wasn't really making any profit. And then his wife had a breakdown. She got diagnosed with, uh, breast cancer and had a breakdown. And so, um, he said to me, "Can't you buy the shop"? And I said, "No, I haven't got any money". And, and so he tried to sell it. Couple, another couple of weeks went by, and he said, "Look, can't you just buy the shop? My wife's really sick. And, uh, I, I, I can't spend any time in it". So I said, "How much do you owe? How much, how much do you owe"? And he said, "My brother owes 7,000". And it had quarters and fixtures and fittings, and so that was a really good deal. So I went back to the market, and I said, "Look, I'll, if you'll allow me to pay you $140 a week, um, I'll take the shop over". And so Roger said, "Yeah, okay. And we'll give you a go". And so, that happened, and, um, and the shop just started to, to...just boom.

John Bradshaw: Tell me a little bit about that, because you became very successful. It's so interesting how you spent all these years gambling...

David Slack: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...lost everything...

David Slack: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...gave it up...

David Slack: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...and took on a little business...

David Slack: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...and then things really went upwards.

David Slack: Amazing. Yeah, the thing's amazing. In that time, there's an interesting thing that I, um, I never...I forgot to tell you, but... when God healed me, I thought, I want to help other people, because I, I knew so many compulsive gamblers, and I knew that there were, there were thousands of them in Hamilton, because it's, it's a gambling town. And, uh, anyhow, I rung up the guy I found at the Gamblers Anonymous number, and I rung him up, and he said, "Oh, no, I had the last meeting last week. Nobody's been coming, so I've just closed it down". And I was, I was really quite deflated once, you know, I was quite deflated. And I thought, Oh, wow. But for two years, God needed to sort me out, in His wisdom. You know, I wanted to do this, but God knew I wasn't ready for that. So, in those two years, uh, the shop started to flourish, and, um, the turnover started to, to go up and up and up, and, and the business became very successful. And then I was doing a delivery one day, once again, to another one of my Asian friends I used to gamble with; uh, we were still doing business. And, uh, this guy came up to me and said... a young fellow he was... and he said to me, um, "You're David Slack, aren't you"? And I said, "Yes, that's right". And he said, uh, "I used to idolize you in the TAB". And I said, "What you saw wasn't real, you know". And he said, "No, no, I used to see you putting enormous amounts of money on horses, and I just wanted to be like you". And I said, "Nah, that life's no good". And he said, "Oh, look, can you help me? Um, my friend and I have got into some trouble, and, um, I, I've, I've got to get out of this life that I'm, I'm leading". And so, the next, I, I rang, uh, I actually rang a bookie mate of mine down in Christchurch who about two or three months beforehand had told me that he had one of his punters going to Gamblers Anonymous, and we sort of laughed at it. You know, uh, we said, "Oh, he'll be back soon, you know. Stupid meetings"! And, uh, and anyhow I remember that he told me this. And so, I, I rang him up and said, "Can you give me, uh, Paul's number"? And so I rang him up, and he told me that there was a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in Auckland. And so the next week, we went to Gamblers Anonymous, and that was two years later, and that's how we started here in, in Hamilton.

John Bradshaw: I want to ask you about Gamblers Anonymous in just a moment.

David Slack: Yes, yes.

John Bradshaw: First I want to ask you about, uh, gambling and the various forms of gambling...

David Slack: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...and the dangers they pose. Because in the last... since you and I used to go to the racetrack...

David Slack: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...and gamble on horses...

David Slack: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...gambling's just everywhere. It's insidious. Lots of different forms of gambling.

David Slack: Sure.

John Bradshaw: What have you, what have you seen?

David Slack: Well...

John Bradshaw: The damage done?

David Slack: The damage done, uh...oh, look, I've, since the time I've been involved in Gamblers Anonymous and going to the prison, I've just, you know, just seen and witnessed and heard just horrific stories. I had a, I had a lady deliver a guy here one day. It was her husband. And she said, um... "This is his last chance". Uh, she said, um, "Three weeks ago I put a gun on the bed". She said, "I really wanted him to kill himself". And, and she said, "Next week, I put bullets with it. And then, nothing happened". And she said, "And now I've delivered him here, and I never want to see him again. This is his last chance". And, uh, they're happily married today. That's a, that's, that's a great story.

John Bradshaw: That's a great story.

David Slack: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, that's great.

David Slack: Yeah, yeah. So...

John Bradshaw: Casinos, what can you tell us about casinos?

David Slack: Well, I had a, I had a friend who was a heroin addict. my best friend was a heroin addict. And he actually used to work for me answering the phones. And, um, you know, the poker machines are the, the, the heroin. You compare them...they're, they're the heroin addiction of the gambling industry: poker machines.

John Bradshaw: Why?

David Slack: They're geared to suck your money out. You know, that's, that's what they are. You know, they play nice music, and, um, it's not uncommon to hear people coming to Gamblers Anonymous and saying, "I had, I had an affair with the poker machine. You know, some days it treated me okay. It was an abusive relationship, but I couldn't help myself. You know, I went back sometimes; it took all my money". Um, and, you know, that, that's how it was, you know. Women...uh, see, when, when you and I were involved in the, in the gambling industry, women very rarely got involved in gambling. You know, you'd walk into the TAB...

John Bradshaw: Men's club.

David Slack: Men's club. You wouldn't, you wouldn't see any; I mean, you know, I, I never saw, I don't think I saw any woman ever in a pool room.

John Bradshaw: True.

David Slack: Never, never saw, never saw a woman there. But now, um, you know, the, you go into a casino, and the vast majority of people playing poker machines are women; you go into these seedy poker machine bars, and, and they're mostly women playing there.

John Bradshaw: Why do you think that is?

David Slack: Well, I asked a lady that one day, John, and she said, "You know, being a housewife is pretty mundane, and, uh, doing the washing and the ironing and the cooking and looking after the children and, and, uh, cleaning the toilet and putting the rubbish out, and..." doing all these other things that this lady said, and she said, "I drop the kids off, and I go to the, to the, uh, poker machine bar, and as long as I had money, all that wins, I wasn't thinking about the mundane things in life. It was just me and, and my lover, the poker machine".

John Bradshaw: Now, you said that when you put that first 10 shillings on a horse way back then, you won. First time out, you won. Do you see that today with people you interact with who have gambling problems? Does that happen much?

David Slack: John, constantly. It's, once again, uh, it's 90 percent of the people that come to Gamblers Anonymous that go, that, that share with me, you know, how the first time they got involved with a poker machine, they won, and it's, you know, it's like, you know, the devil's able to do, heh, all sorts of things, and, um, you know, it's, it's easy for him to manipulate a poker machine.

John Bradshaw: Share a story with me about that. What have you seen?

David Slack: Um, a young lady who, um, a few years back came to, to Gamblers Anonymous and shared her story. She'd been brought up in a very well-to-do home, been to the university, graduated with honors in accountancy, got picked up by one of the head, um, accountancy firms here in Hamilton, and this is her story. She said, "I'd never been seen dead in one of those seedy poker machine bars," but her and her boyfriend went for, uh, dinner at the casino one night, and they thought because they'd never been into the casino, they'd go and just have a look. And, and so they went in, and she, they didn't see anything they liked there, of course. When you're, when you're not a gambler, there's nothing in the casino that appeals to you. So anyhow, she happened to have, her and the boyfriend had a $2 coin each, and he put his $2 coin in. I guess they just did that to say, "Oh, yeah, we've been in there". And he puts money in the poker machine; he pressed the button; nothing happened. And she put her $2 in and pressed the button, and hey, presto! the lights started flashing, and she didn't even know what had happened. And, uh, an attendant came, and he said, "Oh, congratulations, you've just won a $1,400 jackpot". And she said, "Oh, I thought I'd broken the machine when all the lights started to flash on". And, um, so she said, "What happens next"? And he said, "What do you want to happen"? And she said, "Can I have the money"? And he said, "Yeah," and so, off they went, rejoicing. And...that...she was trapped. Unbeknown to her, she was trapped at that stage. And, uh, she went in the next night with another $2 coin and put it in, and lo and behold, the same thing happened, the lights started flashing, and, um, she won $1,600, another jackpot, $1,600. And sadly, she arrived at Gamblers Anonymous six months later, and was $40,000 in credit card debt. Lost all her money and was in debt.

John Bradshaw: People like her, do they, do they get out? Do they get out of gambling?

David Slack: They do if they follow the program. That's, that's the only hope. There is no other hope. Uh, you know, uh, you can give it the bare knuckle and clench, clench your teeth and, and pull up your socks, and, uh, say, "Yeah, no, I'm, I'm, I'm never going, I'm never going to be in this again". But, uh, sadly, you've only got to go on some of the, uh, addiction sites on, uh, on the internet, and, um... Ah! It just, my heart just goes out to these people who, who say, "Oh, yeah, I'm going to do this on my own. I'm gonna, I'm, I'm never gonna gamble again. Oh, it's just been a horrific experience for me". And, and they have no program to follow, and then you see them, a couple months later, they're back on there saying, "Ah, I went down, lost all my money, uh, on the pokies again," and, and, uh, "I'm back to square one". And, and it's the struggle that people go through on their own. You can't do this on your own.

John Bradshaw: Do you think gambling or some forms of gambling should be made illegal?

David Slack: No, not really, John. Look, it's a freedom of choice thing. It's, you know, it' God. You know, it's, it's a... He doesn't take away the freedom of choice from people. But, um, you know, you, you can ban certain kinds of gambling. I mean, they had prohibition in America.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

David Slack: And, and what happened to alcohol? It thrived. And it would be the same here, you know, if you, if you started banning different forms of gambling. Uh, you know, there'd be seedy places start up. And, uh, I'd like to see m..., it, really, uh, a more awareness in, in, in the TABs and the casinos of the dangers of gambling. But for, if, if I'd been, you know, if I'd walked into a TAB as a compulsive gambler when I was younger, I wouldn't have even looked at the signs. So, it's really education before you get to that stage. You know, um, children... you know, 8, 10... should be educated in, in the fact that this is a terrible, uh, can, can be a terrible sickness if you get involved in it.

John Bradshaw: So, once upon a time, you were completely immersed in gambling. That was your life. And now, by a miracle of God, you're completely delivered.

David Slack: Completely delivered.

John Bradshaw: You don't want to go back? You, you're done? You don't have any desire?

David Slack: I hate it. It's, it's just horrible, uh... You know, not only can I look back on my own life and, and see what it did to my father, my mother, um, my first marriage, how it affected my two children from that marriage, um, even in the relationship that I got into, uh, how, you know, it was, that was a nightmare while, while I was gambling. Um, and...yeah, I have no, I have no, no desire at all to, to be involved in that. And I, and you know, the wonderful part of Gamblers Anonymous, if I ever, if I ever thought I will go back and gamble again, I hear it here every Tuesday night, you know, people saying...tragedy, tragedy, you know. We had a guy come last week, lovely young man. And, um, he, he, he was really struggling, you know. He was a start-again, stop, start, stop. And, um, and he came last Tuesday night and said, "Uh, I need help. Uh, I don't want to, I don't want to be living this life anymore".

John Bradshaw: So we could say, "Wow, you've done great". And that sentiment, I think, is not a bad sentiment.

David Slack: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: "You've done so good overcoming this gambling".

David Slack: I didn't overcome it, John.

John Bradshaw: It wasn't you?

David Slack: No. No. I can't take any credit for this.

John Bradshaw: This was God at work?

David Slack: Yeah. Hard at work. Hard at work.

John Bradshaw: So, what do you say to somebody who's struggling with gambling and has heard your story?

David Slack: Number one, there's hope. You know, when, uh, when people ask me, "What's the best thing that's happened to you since, since you stopped gambling"? I say, uh, "Freedom. I'm a slave no longer". The, the wonderful part about it is, is, uh, you know, there's...I remember coming to church here, and, uh, there was a couple here who I didn't know at the time. Uh, their son was in, in, um, Waikeria Prison. And, and, uh, they said to me, "Oh, wow, you, you, you just don't know how good it is to see you here, because if there's hope for you, there's hope for anybody". And, and, uh, you know, I, somebody said to me when I told them that story, they said, "Didn't you feel stinged they said that"? And I said, "No, no, it was the best thing they could ever say to me," because I then found out what the story was behind it. But when know, I've seen, I've seen God working in the prisons, John, you know. It's wonderful that I can, I can go to, um...God's taking me to, to prisons, and I've seen God in action in prisons.

John Bradshaw: So for years you've been helping people who were stuck in gambling, couldn't get out. Now you're dealing with people, ministering to people who are in prison. So, how did you get involved in prison ministry?

David Slack: You know, about five years ago, um... God put into my heart to go to Springhill Prison, and, um...and, you know, I, I, what do you, what do you talk to, to people about, that you'd never met before, who are in prison? And I remember the first time I went, the, the lady who was supposed to have organized, um, a programs room and, um, and to the people that we wanted to come along, were going to come along. And anyhow, when I arrived there, she said, "Oh, look, I haven't organized that yet. Um, I'll send you down. I'll take you down to one of the, the pods, and, um, and you just yell out," and, uh, "and, and just tell people what you're doing". And I said, "You've got to be kidding me". And she said, "No, no, no," um, uh, "Just do that". And so I've got no idea, and I'm starting to freak out, John. You know, I'm thinking, Oh no! But then I just remembered God and prayer, you see, and so as we're walking up, I'm praying, "Holy Spirit, I need You here in my life. I don't know what to say to these guys". So when I went in, uh, and I, and I looked in, and it was like a, a community within a community. And when I, the doors, went through a few doors, and here opened up to, and there was a whole lot of guys milling around and playing basketball, and I noticed there was a card game going on at one of the tables. And, and so I just said, "Hey, guys, look, I'm, I'm from Gamblers Anonymous, and I'm going to be starting running meetings here next week, and if you'd like to come along, I'd love, I'd love to see you". And the next week, about six guys came. And, uh...and they told me later on they came so that they could get out of where they were. It was something different, and they thought, Oh, we'll go along and see this old fellow and see what he's got to say and give him a hard time. And so we got to more, more and more and more and more. Um, we became closer, and, and we became friends. I mean, that's what Jesus did, you know, and so I could only model it on, on what Jesus did. He made friends with people and, and then set them free.

John Bradshaw: Right.

David Slack: And so these guys, uh, the more we, we got to know each other, um, you know, the relationship just became better, better and better. And I was able to open up and talk about God freely with them. And, uh, and it gave them hope. You know, that's what it gives. It's, you know, that God gives a hope and a future. And when you're a, when you're a gambler, there is no hope, and there is no future. That's, that's how it is. And, so, yes, so for the last, um, five years, I've, I've seen God do amazing things in, uh, in people's lives in prison.

John Bradshaw: Give me an example of that.

David Slack: Uh, we've got, uh, a young guy who, uh, I met by divine appointment... that's what, that's, that's what I call them. And, uh, he'd been brought up as a Christian. And, uh, he, he was in prison for, uh, he'd had a prison sentence of about 18 years, and he had shared with me that, uh, he had been... and he wasn't coming to the meetings, but there was a football game going on, uh, in the middle of the, the prison, and I saw this guy, and I went up to him, and I started talking to him. And, um, and anyhow, he was telling me the experience that he had, that he had pulled himself up on the bars. He'd been in prison for about, I don't know, at this stage maybe 10 years, and wanted to see what the outside world was, and all he could see was strips of grass. That's, that's all he could see, and he said, "I got down on my knees, and I stated calling out to God". And I said, "Wow, that's amazing". And, um, and so he told me a bit more, and, and then he said, "Oh, I'm an unusual Christian". And I said, "How's that"? And he said, "Oh, you, you wouldn't understand". And I said, "Oh, tell me". And he said, "Oh, I, I was brought up as a Seventh-day Adventist". And I said, "You're not gonna believe this. So am I". And anyhow, we've become firm friends, and I've seen God change his life. And all he wants to do now when he gets, when he gets out of prison is to tell young people about Jesus, and, um, not to go down the same road that he was.

John Bradshaw: So in prison ministry, you work with guys who accept Jesus, and it's real, and they give their lives to Christ, and it's real. And they leave the prison, fully paid-up, card-carrying Christians committed to Jesus, and then sometime later, they're back. So why is that?

David Slack: Okay. The, the biggest thing that we talk about is, is temptation, because no matter who you are, or where you are, for that matter, you're, you're going to be tempted.

John Bradshaw: Yep.

David Slack: And, uh, so, how do you deal with temptation? And it's the same for all of us, John. How do we deal with temptation? And the program tells us that... if you surrender your life, step 3 of the, of the recovery program says, if you surrender your life into the, the hands of Jesus, that He will enable you to do that. And so, I don't know about you, but, but me, I, I know that, uh, there are things in my life that I can't change. And so that makes me needy. And I share this with the guys: "It makes me needy". And they sort of look at me and think, Needy? And I said, I say, "Yeah, I need Jesus in my life. He promises to give me victory over temptation". You know, He, He says, "Hey, David, I'll take you by your right hand, and I'll fight your battles for you".

John Bradshaw: So why do you do it, David? Why are you involved in prison ministry today?

David Slack: It's, one, number one, it's really exciting. It's, uh, it is. It's, it's really, really exciting. And, and the other thing is, is that, uh, not everybody has, uh, experiences in life that would enable them to be able to go and do that, John. But, uh, it was wonderful that God, um, really enabled me to go there and use my past life to be able to help other people. That's, that's the exciting part about it.

John Bradshaw: Is it a little bit redemptive for you?

David Slack: It, it, it keeps me grounded, you know. It's, uh, I'll tell you, it's, it's, it's really amazing, these, these guys, you know, who are hardened, um, hardened criminals, and, um, but I've never met a bad person there. I guess there must be somewhere in the prison; there must be bad people.

John Bradshaw: Aren't they in prison because they're bad?

David Slack: No. They're there because they've made wrong choices.

John Bradshaw: Sure. Big, big the differences...

David Slack: Yeah, it is, it is. And, uh, you know, when I, when I first went there, and, and after I got to, to know the guys, but, we started talking about love, and all of them said, "We don't know what love is". Not one of them said, "Oh, yeah, I know what love is". They, they knew, um. Then they started sharing with me about how their childhood was and how they were brought up, and, and some of them in really total dysfunctional, um, situations. And, um, and, and, once again, when you start talking about the love of Jesus to them, you know, we, we... "What's that? What's love"? And so, patiently and with the enablement of the Holy Spirit, um, as I said, I really don't know what to, to talk about them, but God gives you the, the, the words. He really puts words in your mouth. Sometimes I walk out of there, and I think, Man, where did that come from? And it's just so good to see God in action in there.

John Bradshaw: So you work a lot with getting people off gambling. How does...I imagine there are many similar principles... how does a person manage to get out of prison and stay successfully out of prison?

David Slack: Mm-hmm. Once again, John, only by, by following the recovery program. I, you know, that's, that's the most successful way, and, and embracing Jesus. That's, that's really the key to it, the, the change of life. Um, there really is no other way. Uh, there was no other way for me. I was just going to continue on, and, and as I was, in my gambling career, and, and Jesus changed my life. And so, it's the same; it can happen for anyone, you know. It, it, that offer from God, this loving God, He never gives up on us, you know. It's, it's just so good, and you can take that, you know, you can take that, that hope in there. And, uh, I'm seeing a few guys at the moment who are just stunned by, by this God who loves. And, uh, and they're wanting to know more. You know, that's, that's really exciting.

John Bradshaw: That's just fantastic.

David Slack: Yeah, yeah.

John Bradshaw: Fantastic. Hey, David, thanks very much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking your time to talk. It's been just great.

David Slack: Ah, it's been wonderful, John, yeah. Any time.

John Bradshaw: I appreciate it immensely. Thanks.

David Slack: It's tremendous. Yeah, thank you.
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