English singer-songwriter James Arthur claims £200/hour online-poker addiction during Covid lockdown

David Schneid
Published by:
Posted on 07/22/2021

English singing star James Arthur, famed for such hits as “Impossible” and “Say You Won’t Let Go”, has admitted to letting his online-poker habit run out of control during the lengthy COVID-19 lockdown. Arthur, a loyal customer of PokerStars, told The Sun that he’d lost up to £370/hour early in the lockdown.

“At the beginning of lockdown I was deep in the PokerStars app,” Arthur told the tabloid. “I was entering $500 tournaments every couple of hours, just sitting on that app all day.” Arthur later deleted the PokerStars app entirely after deeming himself somewhat out of control.

Arthur also detailed his losing control in other ways as well, including smoking pot and overeating. He declared he’d reined himself in only as a new album project began to take shape.

Recurring gambling issues for Arthur

This is not the first time the award-winning singer/songwriter has exhibited possible addictive-gambling behavior. Arthur, now 33, gained wealth and fame after winning the popular English star-making program “X Factor” in 2012. Before diving into online poker, however, Arthur had some issues with high-stakes sports betting.

Earlier this year, Arthur told another English tabloid, The Mirror, that he’d once racked up about £300,000 in debt betting on soccer (football) matches. “I didn’t even realise I’d got myself in debt,” he said at the time. “It was my ­accountant saying, ‘You’re kinda in the red here’.”

At the time, Arthur insisted he didn’t have a gambling problem. His income from his albums and tours has provided a financial cushion, though he did admit to some depression over the losses.

Arthur not the first celebrity to encounter gambling issues

Arthur joins dozens of celebrities and professional athletes who have turned to online poker while on the road or, more recently, idled by the pandemic. As with everyday types, the vast majority of online gamblers avoid possible addiction issues. Some celebs have even become successful poker players, such as Gabe Kaplan, Jennifer Tilly, and Vicky Coren Mitchell.

Occasionally, though, even celebrities spin out of control. A parallel to Arthur’s example might be prominent America actor Ben Affleck. Affleck has battled recurring addiction issues that have surfaced as recently as 2019. The film star was also famed for playing high-stakes poker, both online and live, after being befriended by UltimateBet spokesperson and minority owner Annie Duke in the mid-00’s.

Affleck liked to gamble at high stakes and was well-financed to do so. However, he was significantly outmatched at poker’s elite levels, to the point that he was “bumhunted” online by pros who waited for him to appear at UltimateBet’s tables.

Other online players took extreme measures to secure seats at the tables Affleck joined. Those measures included bribing UltimateBet employees to disclose Affleck’s current online screen name. Due to his friendship with Duke, Affleck could change his online handle at will. Other players also researched where and when Affleck was filming movies, changing their own schedules to be online during Affleck’s likeliest off-set hours.