Tradie dies after gambling away $30,000
TRIGGER WARNING: This story discusses suicide and gambling addiction. Help numbers are listed within the article.
A YOUNG Aussie apprentice who won big on an online jackpot tragically died a few weeks later in June.
Thomas Vives-Kerl, 21, from Sydney's Northern Beaches, was a happy-go-lucky boy who had just started his locksmithing apprenticeship.
The young man with a cheeky grin and years in front of him died by suicide after he became addicted to gambling on an illegal offshore site that refused to pay out his $30,000 winnings.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Thomas's mother Fernanda Vives shared his story in an emotional interview with A Current Affair last night.
Mrs Vives said the most frightening part was that Thomas was not a "gambler".
She said after he won $30,000, his boss took Thomas to a bank and opened an account for his winnings.
He won the massive amount with his first bet after depositing $200 into the account.
But the winnings were never paid out.
"He was going to put it in (the account) for his apprenticeship," she said.
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After three phone calls to EmuCasino's support team in an effort to cash out the money, Thomas continued to gamble and his small fortune dwindled down to $2 within two weeks.
A Current Affair reported the website, which is hosted offshore in Malta and Curacoa, was illegal in Australia and accused of preying on vulnerable young Australians.
Mrs Vives said there were no outward signs her son would take his own life.
"You always felt his presence, he was just a beautiful person who always had a cheeky smile on his face," she said.
"He got a hair cut, he put a muffler on his car ready to sell it because his boss was going to get him a van. He had plans," she said.
While what was going through Thomas's head the night he took his life was unknown, Ms Vives said she believed the gambling pushed him over the edge.
"When I found out about the money, my intuition just said to me he has gambled the money … he's completely hated himself and in a moment of guilt, shame (there was) a moment of madness," she said.
"He just hated making mistakes or hated someone not feeling he was doing the right thing.
"He would just really beat himself up."
University of Sydney Associate Professor Sally Gainsbury undertakes research to make gambling safer.
She said the site "claimed" to be Australian with an ".au" website ending and Australian support numbers, but the illegal site licensed in Europe was one of 2300 sites operating online in Australia without licences.
"They use things like punt, g'day and mate all indicating they are appropriate for Australians," Dr Gainsbury said.
She said gamblers were putting themselves at risk by using offshore sites.
"The game might not be fair, it might be impossible to get your money out of, and as an Australian using an offshore gambling site, you have no recourse. You can't complain to the police," she said.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority told A Current Affair it was investigating the site and "proceeding with the enforcement and disruption options available to us".
"I think (gambling) pushed him over the edge. If it wasn't for that, he'd be here. 100 per cent,' she said," Ms Vives said.
If you are someone who struggles with some of issues mentioned in this story, there is help available.
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