A young apprentice tradesman who became addicted to a dodgy gambling site before losing $30,000 tragically took his own life just days later.
Thomas Vives-Kerl, 21, from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, put $200 into an online pokies site and won $30,000 on his first bet.
But he was unable to retrieve his winnings after several attempts and instead gambled the small fortune away, before he was left with just $2.
His heartbroken mother, Fernanda Vives, said there were no signs of her son’s struggle and believed gambling had caused him to lose his will to live and drove off a cliff.
‘He wasn’t a gambler as such. That was the most frightening thing of it all, that he wasn’t a gambler,’ Ms Vives told A Current Affair.
Thomas Vives-Kerl (left, with his ex-girlfriend Bekah Perlman), 21, from the Sydney’s northern beaches, who became addicted to a dodgy gambling site and cost him $30,000 has taken his own life
‘When I found out about the money, my intuition just said to me: ”He’s gambled the money up there”. He completely hated himself. Shame, guilt and moment of madness,’ Ms Vives said.
‘Even if he was struggling silently like so many young people are nowadays … you don’t need that to push you over the edge.’
Two weeks before Mr Vives-Kerl killed himself, he was full of optimism and had just put a muffler in his car as he prepared to sell it.
He had a good relationship with his boss, who was going to get him a van as part of his work.
When the first-time gambler played on the online casino, he was ecstatic about winning $30,000 in one hit and told his boss.
‘His boss took him to the bank and opened a bank account for when he got it out,’ Ms Vives said.
‘He was going to put it in for his apprenticeship.’
Mr Vives-Kerl put $200 into an illegal gambling site and won $30,000 in one bet
But Thomas was unaware he would have to fight to collect his winnings.
He made three phone calls to the website’s customer service team but didn’t receive a response.
‘He never got his winnings. He put every cent back in. He had $2 left of his $30,000,’ his mother said.
Ms Vives was unaware of her son’s struggle until it was too late.
‘He just hated making mistakes or hated that someone felt like he wasn’t doing the right thing so he would really just beat himself up,’ she said.
The tradesman (pictured with Ms Perlman) was unable to retrieve his winnings after several attempts and instead put every cent back in, leaving him with just $2 left
His heartbroken mother, Fernanda Vives, said there were no signs of her son’s struggle and believed gambling caused him to drive himself off a cliff and take his life
Months after Mr Vives-Kerl’s death, the online casino acknowledged he had accessed the site and provided his ID to prove he was over 18, along with his credit card details.
But the company claimed they had never given Mr Mr Vives-Kerl his winnings because his documents were unclear.
Mr Vives-Kerl had contacted them numerous times and had called them twice on the day he took his life.
Ms Vives has remember her son as a ‘beautiful person’ who ‘always had a cheeky smile on his face’.
‘Gambling pushed him over the edge. If it wasn’t for that, he’d be here. 100 per cent,’ she said.
Mr Vives-Kerl was unaware he would have to fight to win his earnings from the gambling site
The online casino Mr Vives-Kerl used is purportedly an Australian gambling site and uses words like ‘punt’, ‘mate’ and is even named after a native bird (stock image)
University of Sydney associate Professor Dr Sally Gainsbury, whose focus of research is on safe gambling, says there are more than 2,000 sites like the one Mr Vives-Kerl played.
While the sites aren’t doing anything against the law by offering gambling services, they are illegal to run or play in Australia.
The website Mr Vives-Kerl used is purportedly Australian and uses words like ‘punt’, ‘mate’ and is even named after a native bird.
But Dr Gainsbury says the operations of the site links back to Malta.
‘The game might not be fair. It might be rigged even if you win,’ she said.
‘You can’t complain to police. There’s nowhere you can go if you feel the game has been rigged or if you’ve lost your money.
‘It’s so accessible. There’s no closing hours. You don’t have to get into your car. You don’t even have to get dressed. You can spend as much money as you want.’
Australians spend about $600million into illegal online casinos every year.
The company claimed they had never given Mr Vives-Kerl his earnings because his documents were unclear
Mr Vives-Kerl’s ex-girlfriend of three years, Bekah Perlman, paid a heartfelt tribute on social media.
‘I said goodbye to one of the people I love and care about most in the world,’ she wrote.
‘For nearly three years we were together Tom was so much more than just my boyfriend, he was my rock and my best friend – the person who I knew had my back 110 per cent of the time.
‘Tom, there will never be a time I don’t hold you so close to my heart. I owe you the biggest thank you for everything that we got to experience together.’
The Australian Communications and Media Authority are investigating the gambling website.
For confidential support call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on: 13 11 14