‘I Will Always Be A Compulsive Gambler, So One Day At A Time, I Stay Away From It’

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We talk to well-known Tralee entertainer, Mark Leen, about his new book on all things gambling-related, how he wants to help others beat the addiction and how he once lost over $17,000 in one bet in a Las Vegas casino…

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Mark Leen with his book ‘Viva Lost Wages’ in First Chapter, Manor West on Wednesday. Photo by Dermot Crean

“I’m a compulsive gambler, I will always be thus, but I have a choice. The devastation caused by compulsive gambling kicks in when I place a bet. So one day at a time, I stay away from it.” – Mark Leen

Mark Leen sits sipping a coffee in Manor West, a place where he has a thriving business in the form of his Centrescreen digital advertising platform.

He just recently performed to huge crowds in the INEC with DJ Curtin and he’s involved in the Elvis Rocks festival in the same Killarney venue next month.

He’s busy and in good form now, but for years Mark hid a dark secret about his addiction to gambling.

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The former Emerald Elvis, who last had a bet in 2012, just released a book on the subject of compulsive gambling called – rather ingeniously – ‘Viva Lost Wages’.

Mark sat down and told me the reasons for writing about the subject.

“People won’t buy this book because they know me and like me as an entertainer. It’s not a gimmick to get into the headlines. I believe I am uniquely placed to help other people and stop them going down the same road that I went on,” he said.

“Life now pays me more than enough, but for a large part of my career, I destroyed a huge part of my earnings – from selling out huge venues throughout the country – by gambling. I’d play to hundreds of people a night and all I’d want to do the next day is go to the bookies and bet,” he said.

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“I gambled off in lonely places. The Mark Leen the people of Tralee know was hidden away in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas betting $17,800 on one spin of a roulette wheel. Then walking out on the street, broke, looking at the sign for Caesar’s Palace and quoting the Bible’s “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.

I went back to my hotel room and wondered what to do, too proud to call my friend DJ Curtin. I walked out on strip in my Elvis suit and started singing for tips. After three hours I had $480 back again.”

But a few years ago, Mark decided he had to do something about his addiction.

“The last big losing day I had was back in 2012. I went into a bookies in Tralee and I dropped €8,700 in three hours. I walked into a book shop after to look for a book on problem gambling and I found nothing,” he said.

So Mark decided to do a comprehensive study on gambling and the industry.

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He has worked on the book for two years, rising at 5am each morning to go and write a few words. In the book, Mark shares how gambling was par for the course ever since he was a young man, started out at Tralee Greyhound Stadium.

“We were runners for bookies and we would play pitch and toss behind the sheds for ten pence.”

He writes about the old turf accountants offices on Rock Street where results came over the blower, and risking thousands on the turn of a card or the spin of the dice in Casino mega resorts in America.

The book covers all aspects of the gambling personality, recovery and some ruthless tactics which he claims are abounding within the industry.

“Gambling has become an epidemic for a lot of people, you can bet 24/7 through any means. We don’t have to leave our homes to lose our homes,” he said. “It struck me when I went to a funeral some time ago and looked into a man’s coffin and I knew that gambling had put him there. He took his own life, that’s how serious it is.

I got epileptic seizures at machines I had been in front of them so long. My fingers have gone numb from pressing buttons,” he continued.

The book breaks down the wagering propositions and gaming conditionality for people to read about, and the real odds punters were vying with. Mark also writes about the importance of Gamblers Anonymous.

One Priest in Kerry has informed Mark he would be drawing people’s attention to the book at masses this coming weekend. Fr Brendan Walsh said that “gambling causes a tremendous amount of pain and suffering for families in our communities and is largely going unaddressed in society. There are answers for people who want to stop within the pages of Mark Leen’s book.”

Brian Tracy is an American Author and self-help development speaker, with many followers in Ireland. He has published over 70 top selling books on psychology and success.  Brian has endorsed Mark Leen’s book by saying;

“In this inspiring book, Mark shows you how to take control of your thoughts, feelings, actions and your whole life.”

‘Viva Lost Wages’ is going to be available in over 250 countries said Mark, and it will be translated into 10 different languages.

‘Viva Lost Wages – Freedom from Problem Gambling’; is going to Barnes and Noble, and is currently available in Easons Bookshops Tralee, Killarney and Listowel and in First Chapter at Manor West.

Portions of the profits will benefit animal charities such as Homes for Unwanted Greyhounds and The Hope Foundation.

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