Hannah Walker: ‘Gambling addiction has nothing to do with someone’s character’

When the performance artist realised her partner was hooked on gambling, it shook her world – and went on to inspire an ambitious new show

Hannah Walker first noticed her partner liked to gamble when they would go to the pub together: he would make a beeline for the fruit machine, while she’d play quizzes and card games on itbox machines. “But he’d stay on the fruit machine a lot longer, and I’d leave the itbox to continue my glass of wine,” she recalls. She thought nothing of it at the time. Just like her enthusiasm for a few glasses of wine, she saw casual gambling as a vice, but one that was fun and easily managed.

Over the next few years, though, unexplained money troubles became an increasing feature of the couple’s life together. Walker’s partner was constantly glued to his phone, until one day in 2017 he left it at home by accident. “I knew something wasn’t right, so I logged in, and discovered that so much money had been going into online gambling.” Her initial reaction was shock, but also shame. “I didn’t want to tell family and friends about it because my partner is the most wonderful man in the world ever, but I knew they would judge him for it.”

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