John Robins has said he would have probably killed himself if he had access to online gambling at the height of his addiction.
The comedian and radio presenter said he started gambling at the age of 16 on fruit machines in pubs but the situation got out of hand and he became desperate and started self-harming.
Speaking in a BBC Three documentary Can You Beat the Bookies? he said: “I haven’t really spoken about it.
“I’ve tried to write about it but it’s something that means too much to be funny about it I guess. It’s part of my life pre-comedy.”
Describing how he got into fruit machines, he said: “For me it was a way of switching my brain off. As soon as I was stood in front of a fruit machine it was just like flicking a switch, where I didn’t think about anything.”
Robins eventually went to Gamblers Anonymous, and said: “The situation was getting very out of control and I was very desperate and self-harming.
“This was about 1999/2000 but over the course of going, the make-up of the groups that I went to got progressively younger and as gambling moved online a lot more women started going.”
Asked by fellow comedian Lloyd Griffith how he thought he would fare today if he was a teenager with access to gambling online, he said: “If I had the same problem now as an 18-year-old as I did then, with access to the internet and apps on my phone, I would probably be dead because I would have killed myself.
“And what is quite scary is that in all the progress that we have made in understanding problem gambling, it’s actually easier to become one now than it was 15 or 20 years ago.”
In the programme, Griffith embarks on an experiment to find out if he can uncover the secrets of gambling success and in the process learn the truth about how the industry operates, meeting both professional gamblers and those who have suffered the consequences of gambling addiction.
The Gambling Commission, which is responsible for regulating the gambling industry, said: “Licensees are required to have procedures for interacting with customers who may be at risk of harm and should take account of the level of expenditure incurred by a customer.
“Operators must step in if any customer shows signs of problem gambling.”
Can You Beat the Bookies? is available on BBC Three from 10am on August 4.