A finance chief stole £1million from his firm to fund his gambling as he was being wooed to carry on betting with VIP tickets and holidays worth up to £50,000.
Steven Girling, 35, said he was left on the brink of suicide after British gambling firms targeted him aggressively.
The father-of-two and his wife, Rashael, 41, lived like millionaires, drinking champagne in five-star hotels in Dubai and entertaining friends on VIP tickets at races including Royal Ascot, the Derby and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Steven Girling (pictured with NFL cheerleaders at Wembley) said he was left on the brink of suicide after British gambling firms targeted him aggressively
But despite betting up to £50,000 a day online on slot machines and roulette over the three years he claims his addictive behaviour was never questioned by the three companies he gambled with.
He added: ‘It was clear from my patterns of play I was addicted.’
Last week, the financial director pleaded guilty to theft from his employer, and expects to go to prison when he is sentenced on January 2.
A Daily Mail investigation in August showed how gambling firms used so-called VIP schemes to keep the highest-spending punters hooked on their websites, offering free holidays and sports tickets worth tens of thousands of pounds.
He and his wife Rashael (pictured together) travelled to five-star hotels in Dubai and entertained friends on VIP tickets at races including Royal Ascot
For Girling, of Costessey, Norfolk, the allure of the high life proved too much, and in one day he deposited more than £50,000.
He said he expected the fact he once paid in twice his salary over 24 hours ‘would ring alarm bells’.
But he added: ‘My behaviour didn’t trigger any alarms. By feeding my addiction I thought I was making myself happy, but it was destroying me. It was prison or death. I very nearly chose death.’
He lied to his wife about their luxury, telling her he won the all-expenses trip to Dubai.
Girling bet up to £50,000 a day online on slot machines and roulette over the three years (file photo)
She is standing by him, even though they are selling their house to repay his employer.
Girling was treated to VIP tickets to see American [NFL] football at Wembley, received tickets to his local team, Norwich City, and was given seats to see Everton, where his daughter, now 13, presented the man of the match award.
At the Total Eclipse race day at Sandown Park in Surrey, he was even selected to choose the course’s best turned-out horse.
He also received ‘gifts’ of £500 in his account to soften the blow when he lost. Girling said his membership of a VIP scheme reflected the betting company’s ‘priority… to ensure if you are still actively playing on a gaming site, it is with us’.
He added: ‘It may have caused addiction.’
He pleaded guilty to theft at Norwich Crown Court and now faces up to five years in jail
He had an account manager who used to sign him up for competitions, telling him: ‘I have already opted into this weekly for you – all you need to do is play.’
In January Girling resigned as finance director of Premier Education Group, a sports education firm.
After his arrest, he complained to his bookmakers, but received an email stating: ‘The activity on your account was not such that any action from a social responsibility perspective was required.’
He said he had repaid £112,000 and would return more from the sale of his house.
He told the Eastern Daily Press: ‘I am ashamed.
‘I didn’t want to stop. I would play £100 spins on slot machines, and you can spin every few seconds.
‘One evening I lost £18,000. It was just a spiral. I’ve kept quiet for three long years and nearly lost everything, including my life.’
He pleaded guilty to theft at Norwich Crown Court and faces up to five years in jail.