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Gordon Moody
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Lesson 5

A Royal Commission on Gambling was set up in 1976 under the chairmanship of Lord Rothschild.  I can’t resist quoting a few lines from the Royal Warrant to show how these things are done in Britain:

            ELIZABETH THE SECOND , by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories QUEEN, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to
            Our Right Trusty and Well-Beloved Nathaniel Mayer Victor, baron Rothschild, Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, upon whom has been conferred the George medal…
            WHEREAS we have deemed it expedient that a Commission should forthwith issue to inquire into the existing law, and practice there under, relating to betting, gaming, lotteries and prize competitions …
            …Our further will and pleasure is that … you do, with as little delay as possible, report to Us your opinion…

            The resulting report, running to nearly 900 pages in two volumes, was both comprehensive and highly readable.  The members of the Commission not only reviewed and analyzed all aspects of gaming in Britain, and made numerous recommendations for future policy, they also set out some practical advice for would-be gamblers.  Moody was one of many people who gave evidence to the Commission; he was listened to seriously, even if his advice, this time, was not followed.
            It so happened that the report was published, in July, 1978, just two weeks before the day came for Moody to retire.  He was the only full-time employee in gambling who was not working either for the promoters or for the controllers of gambling.
            He was, in a word, irreplaceable. There was also a problem of money which the Churches’ Council had to face.  For several years moody had economized by using a room   in his home as an office, and handling such matters as post and filing himself.  His wife Jess dealt with the phone in his absence.  This sort of thing could not really go on.  Given the plain choice of finding the money to appoint a successor on his retirement in 1978 or closing down its office, the Council reluctantly opted for the latter.  Its hope was that some kind of National Council on would emerge to take over its role as adviser, protector and spokesman of the public’s interest.

            For some time this looked to be only a pious hope though the Royal Commission’s very first recommendation was that the Government should establish a Gambling Research Unit to monitor and study the incidence, sociology and psychology of gambling’.  This was, in effect, what Moody had tried to do, as a one-man band, by turning his occasional conferences into a Society for the Study of Gambling.  Until its launch in 1977 no such group existed which goes to show how study of the impact of gambling on society in Britain has been neglected.  Even now there is no money behind it.  fortunately, colleagues who appreciated the value of the Council as a research and lobbying body, like Dr Moran, persisted in the attempt to set up a national council, which they succeeded in doing in 1980.
            Moody’s true memorial came in another form altogether.  A hostel was set up in Beckenham, South London, for looking after single, homeless, compulsive gamblers.  It was essential, if such people were to have a chance of pulling through, to get them off the streets; otherwise they went straight back into trouble.  The hostel, which could take care of up to eight people, now receives an annual grant from the Home Office.  It was named Gordon House.
            Looking back, Moody believes that the record of the Churches’ Council, its successes and failures, were due not so much to skill as to luck – a surprisingly ‘gaming’ view of life!  He means that when they were successful they were ridiculously successful, because they were riding the wave of political opinion, like a winning streak.  Where they failed, for instance on the Horse Totalisator and Betting Levy Board Act (when no one was thinking at all about the poor old punter at the bottom of the crock of gold) or on the legislation for lotteries (where the local authorities were siphoning off all the profits for their own ends) it was not though bad work, but bad luck.  The political tide was running the other way.
            Always active on behalf of gamblers.  Moody’s thoughts in retirement had been much troubled by a new social problem, or an old problem in new guise: teenage gambling: kids who became hooked on slotting poker machines -  whirring, flashing little slots which paid out a derisory maximum pot of £ 1.50 in cash, or tokens for free plays.  Such kids, apart from being the despair of their mothers, were a category of compulsive gambler for whom there was no remedy to hand.  They were not hard cases fleeings to GA; their parents could not relate to Gam-Anon – they would arrive at a meeting saying, ‘How long before Johnnie is cured?  Can we do it this afternoon or will it be next week?’ such parents couldn’t believe it was a long-term addiction, that their kids did not want to give up.  Yet such children displayed all destructive traits of adult compulsive gamblers.

            Youngsters who got addicted to these slot machines might have started at the age of 9 or 10.  They ran through their pocket money, school dinner money, and loose change around the house.  A year or two on and boys began stealing things.  Everything would be sold form the child’s own room, bats, books, even treasures like record players: other children would find their own toys gone too.  Nothing in the house was safe.  Moody heard to desperate mothers piling up their possessions in one room so as to sit guard over them, or having to hide their handbags under the bedclothes when they went to sleep.  Frantic, such mothers could no more comprehend what was happening to their offspring than nesting birds robbed by a cuckoo.  The kids still managed to steal from somewhere.  By the age of 16, the police would be knocking on the door.
            Moody, stuck down in Devon, could’t see any way he could crack the issue.  Then he got a letter from a young mother living not far away in Newton Abbot.  What this mother had to say about her errant son was so clear and intelligence that Moody got in touch.  They talked things over and decided to act.  So, with the help of a charity in Taunton called Spectrum Children’s Trust, they launched a telephone service for parents.  Thus was started the society for the Problems of Young Gamblers.
            The missing ingredient was to do something directly for the children.  Parents had to learn not to shout and lose control, but to reorganize their own reactions, so as to bring the situation under control.  This, in turn, would have some beneficial effect on the children: but the problem itself remained.  There is nothing that can be done for a juvenile gambler, Moody has to explain, unless the child positively wants to change his ways.  In that sense it ’s exactly the opposite of GA, where all those who join do so because they have been driven to it, as a last resort.
            One sunny day at the end of 1986 a newly decorated and expanded Gordon House – rooms for 15 residents – was opened in south – east London.  Moody, spruce and pink and jolly as ever, held a pair of golden scissors for the tape across the front door to be ceremonially cut.  A little crowd of well-wishers and residents gathered round him in the forecourt.

            ‘We’re going to open a door in a minute, ’ Moody began, ‘and it reminded me (I don’t often worry people when I’m not in the pulpit about what it says in the Bible) of Jesus telling Peter that he is giving him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: what he sets free will be free and what he binds will be bound.  Tremendous responsibility!’ When he was young and interested mainly in theology, Moody explained, there was a great argument over who held these keys, whether it was the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury or the President of the methodist Church, or just the priesthood in general.
            But since he had got mixed up with Gamblers Anonymous and Gordon House and its residents and staff, he had come down to earth and realized that what this was all about was that in life some people – either by their own action man had got themselves outside the door, and wanted to get through the door, back into life.
            ‘And I’ve realized, too, that all of us as members of the human race very often hold for others the keys of life, and if we open a door then those who wish to go through can go through.  Now often when that ’s thought about by people I know in ordinary life they think it ’s a matter of the staff at Gordon House saying, “Oh yes, come in, ” and in comes an outcast, who is then put under instruction and very great discipline, and who may eventually become some kind of a human being, but will live for ever afterwards under a shadow, because of the past.  But what goes on here, and has done from the beginning.  I’d like you to know, is that when the door opens, it ’s opened as much by the residents as by the staff, and there is a welcoming hand to a fellow human being, coming back into life, with no reservation.
            And for that I’m jolly glad about Gordon House.’

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