GreyhoundIt sounds like a joke: A man walks into a betting shop, loses 2 million, and sues the bookmaker for allowing him to do so and breaching its “duty of care” towards him. But it’s happening.

Graham Calvert is a greyhound trainer who became “addicted” to gambling and lost over 2 million on various bets over a relatively short space of time. After coming to acknowledge his “addiction” Calvert approached William Hill the bookmaker to bar him from using their shops. I guess when it comes to the point of bringing bin liners full of money into a betting shop, ala Calvert, you’re probably overdoing it a little. When most gamblers put £5 or £10 on a horse Calvert was regularly handing £5,000 over the counter, with some bets going as high as £30,000.

William Hill obliged with the ban but Calvert was able to open another account (with a different credit card) and started handing over wads of cash once again: £347,000 on America to win the Ryder Cup in 2006: they lost, D’OH! The result is that his wife has left him (along with his two children), his life is in ruins, and no-one (except maybe him) would bet on his being able to pay back the 1.5 million he now owes. So, let’s hear it for Mr Calvert: Awwwww.

Was Calvert just another poor victim of the “Gambling Bug?” Was he in the power of an addiction over which he had no control? I think not. Here’s the truth: he’s a mindless self-indulgent idiot who made his bed and ought to shut his whinging mouth, dry his whining eyes and lie in it. His lawyer, Tiejha Smyth, thinks (if that term is applicable to lawyers) a little differently: “He was allowed to continue gambling after Hill’s agreed he should be self-excluded. They should be held legally responsible.” And so they are suing the bookmaker for the £2 million he lost after asking to be barred, money which no doubt will find its way back into the coffers of his local betting shop. It’s a novel way to feed a habit, I’ll give him that. Calvert himself argues: “If I’d known I had the problem and didn’t do anything about it, I would see myself as being 100 per cent responsible. The fact is that I did try to go through the right procedures and I was let down.” I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot and he had won 2 million would he be obliging if William Hill approached him and said “well, actually you weren’t supposed to be gambling under the terms of your agreement, so we’ll be taking the 2 million back, thanks very much.” I seriously doubt it, and rather suspect his reaction would involve a number of expletives not fit for polite conversation. As it is, he didn’t win: he lost, and was “let down.”

Yes Mr. Calvert. You were let down. That much is undeniable. But who let you down? You did: you are 100% responsible for your actions. Who placed £347,000 on America to win the Ryder Cup? You did! Who subsequently squandered a fortune on horses that ran as if their balls were dragging along the ground? You did! Who placed ridiculously enormous bets on dogs that may as well have been chasing their own tails? I think even you can work out the answer to this for yourself. Even if William Hill had banned you completely you would have found another shop, or placed your bets online. You are a self-indulgent, financially incompetent, weak-willed, fickle, pathetic, miserable excuse for a man and a human being. You’re like the child that “just can’t” keep its fingers out of the cookie jar. Your excuse for your behaviour is no better than that of Mr. O. Bese who tells us he’s just addicted to food, or of the rapist who tells us he’s a sex addict.

While people like Mr Calvert are grossly and irresponsibly self-indulgent, the powers that be tend to make matters worse by indulging their delusions. The Gambling Commission said that licensed betting operators must promote “socially responsible gambling” under the Gambling Act 2005, and that this includes an obligation to assist “problem gamblers” by “[putting] in place procedures for self-exclusion and take all reasonable steps to refuse service or to otherwise prevent an individual who has entered a self-exclusion agreement from participating in gambling.”

Here’s what gets me: if a gambler has sufficient decision-making capacity to exclude themselves, why can’t they stop gambling? If it’s possible to walk into a betting shop and get yourself self-excluded, why can’t you avoid going into a betting shop at all? I walked past three betting shops on my way to work this morning. None of them sucked me in with a huge vacuum pump against my will. None of them twisted my hand behind my back and forced me to get out my wallet. None of them held a gun to head until I wrote out a betting slip and handed over my cash. I’m relieved to say that I managed to walk past all of them successfully without going in. I walk past about 200 shops a day and the only ones I enter are those I voluntarily choose to enter. There is no compulsion at the threshold of any shop – betting, sex, alcohol, clothes, music, whatever. It’s always possible not to go in; and when you do go in it’s always possible to get out again without having spent any money.

On top of this nonsense we get talk of: “problem gamblers.” Now there’s an interesting phrase. Problem for whom exactly? They aren’t spending anyone’s money but their own. When you place a bet you are aware of the risks and must be prepared to take the hit of losing. Moreover, many people spend stupid amounts of money on a whole host of things: are they “problem shoppers?” “problem homebuyers?” “problem music-lovers?” “problem necklace wearers?” “problem TV watchers?” “problem theatre-goers?” Furthermore, few would bother to talk about “problem gamblers” if they’re on a winning streak. Before his rather spectacular descent into ruin Mr Calvert was quite a successful gambler, making up to £50,000 a year on bets. He only became a “problem gambler” because he started losing after a few rash bets to recover his Ryder Cup, umm, misjudgement.

Mr. Calvert deserves our condemnation and vitriol, not our sympathy; much more so because he refuses to take responsibility for himself and continues making excuses. Of course, our ever-expanding pseudo-ailment culture with its over-inflated sense of victimhood and under-developed sense of personal responsibility encourages the Calverts of this world to behave, think and act as they do. There’s now a massive industry dedicated to addiction, which is fast becoming a “mental illness.” Psychiatrists are inventing new mental illnesses daily (and, of course, cashing in by treating them). What people used to call general unhappiness is now called manic depression and treated as an illness to be cured. “Addiction” is being treated similarly. Few people are willing to face the stark reality that addiction is all too often a cover term for self-indulgent weakness of the will. Anytime someone complains about being unable to stop smoking, drinking or gambling the correct response is to slap them in the face and shout “bullshit!” It’s very easy not to gamble, even for someone like Mr. Calvert. His problem is that he just doesn’t want to stop, but to appease his sense of guilt deludes himself by making lame but showy attempts to curb his indulgence.

The human spirit is much more robust than our new breed of pseudo-psychologists make out, with their nonsense that people are helpless victims of some monster over which they have no control. It’s shameless that people should point the finger at everyone and anyone else but themselves. Human beings are not determined or caused to act in the ways that they do. We choose our behaviour. We choose to act or not act in certain ways, and are thus morally responsible agents. To my mind it’s defeatist weak-willed bollocks to suggest otherwise and whine about being addicted to something as if it isn’t in your power to change. As long as physical actions remain voluntary – and they do – the notion of addiction as an irresistible power is nonsense.

There are those who think that in cases where people refuse to take responsibility for themselves then government has the right, and the responsibility, to stick their big legislative noses in. Such a view is a repulsive denigration of the very concept of rights, personal responsibility and rationality. Each of us has a right to our own life, and this right involves the right to use one’s own mind to make one’s own decisions and accept the consequences. If we really want to treat Mr Calvert as a rational agent with a right to his own life and a right to act according to his own judgment then we must leave him to make his decisions and accept the consequences, whether or not they ruin his life. There simply isn’t any other way to extol human rights and human dignity. To treat him any other way is to treat him as a child.

Should Calvert win his case it would amount to a rather insidious erosion of personal responsibility, a concept which continues to take blow after blow in our blame and claim culture in which everything is almost always the fault of somebody else. The phrase “it’s my fault” is becoming rather quaint. So many people want to be seen as victims. Why? “Victimhood,” says the think-tank Civitas, “is a political status that is sought after because of the advantages it brings, including preferential treatment in the workplace, the possibility of using police power to silence unwelcome critics and financial compensation.”

People can freely help Mr Calvert if they so desire (I wouldn’t) but to me rather than using the machinery of officialdom to force the population to assist those too weak and self-indulgent to help themselves we should make an example out of them. What example does it set to other people tempted to gamble away their lives if they see the safety net of litigation and legislation beneath them? The best deterrent is for people to see exactly what happens to those who have gone before them into oblivion.

But will our ever growing band of hand-wringing, teary-eyed, limp-wristed Concerned Citizens take any notice?

Not even Mr Calvert would bet on that one.