Moral Money: our reader feels her spouse’s issues could spoil her girls' night out

‘My husband lost thousands to gambling – but wants to ban me from bingo’

Moral Money: our reader feels her spouse’s issues could spoil her girls’ night out

Dear Moral Money,

I have been playing bingo on a Wednesday evening at our local bingo hall in Birmingham for the last four years. It is a social event and very popular, admittedly mainly with the ladies, but it is a good girls’ night out. 

The bingo hall has some slot machines and other arcade games, but it is not a casino – there’s no cards or roulette, or anything like that. 

I have had a few decent wins, the largest was £400 and paid for a great family holiday, and probably covers every penny I have ever spent at bingo. My husband, however, wants me to stop going because he stopped going to the casino after getting into thousands of pounds’ worth of debt playing cards. 

It doesn’t seem right that I can’t have my girls’ night out because he is rubbish at cards. Bingo and cards are nothing like each other – what should I do?

Dear reader,

Growing up near Margate in Kent, one of my lasting childhood memories is playing bingo in the arcades on Margate seafront – where the caller sits in the centre of a ring of fixed consoles that are bingo cards, where you slide a little door over the numbers as they come up. Happy days. 

I can almost feel the vibe of your bingo night out when I imagine what you have described. It is so important that we socialise and have fun in whatever way suits us, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else. I honestly believe that a good social life, cultivated long term friendships and mixing with lots of other people are vital for good mental health

The issue here seems to be that your husband is comparing bingo with cards, and he has had a bad experience where he got into debt playing cards at the casino. 

Having been intimately close to addiction, I am familiar with its insidious impact on family and friends, as well as those gripped by compulsive and often ruinous behaviour.  Knowing how hard it can be for many to interrupt this cycle, I am impressed by your husband’s decision to quit gambling because it wasn’t working out well for him – that is to be respected. 

It is also important, once the cycle is interrupted, to avoid triggering it again. This is where I have some empathy with your husband. Maybe your bingo is a reminder of his troublesome relationship with gambling. It could be that is what he is reacting to – rather than actually believing your relationship with bingo is like his with cards, when clearly it is not.

Someone who has already experienced addictive tendencies may well find that their relationship with many things can become excessive. But it isn’t the thing they abuse that is the problem, rather their relationship with it. So, social games of bingo to one person may well become a compulsion to another – it isn’t the bingo that is the problem, though. 

I don’t know enough about your situation to understand if your husband envies your ability to play bingo without being tempted to spend more than your budget, or your social life with the girls. Could it be that he misses the social part of going out and mixing with like-minded people? Has he replaced his casino trips with a less addictive pass time? 

I am struggling with the maths a bit on your assertion that a £400 win has probably covered the cost of your bingo hobby. You say you have been going weekly for four years. My local bingo hall charges around £25 a night. That adds up to over £5,000. The reason I am pointing this out is because underestimating the costs of a habit, as part of justifying its continuation, can be a sign of problematic behaviour, so keep it real. 

If you have been going weekly for four years that’s around 200 sessions. So £400 of winnings in 200 sessions is a pitiful £2 per session, and definitely not covering the cost. You did say it was the most significant of your wins, and so I am sure the winnings overall are higher – but don’t kid yourself that bingo is profitable when it isn’t, even though it does sound like an affordable jolly. 

All in all, I think your bingo sounds like good, clean, affordable fun for you and your friends. I also think your husband may well be wise to treat it with suspicion, not because of how you engage with it, but because it could be a trigger for him. It is great he is looking after himself, but you don’t need the same protection, so enjoy your bingo. 

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