The TalkBanStop initiative was launched yesterday by GamCare, Gamban and GamStop, coinciding with a film featuring former professional footballer Michael Chopra.

Chopra played as a striker for his hometown club Newcastle United for four years and spent two seasons at rivals Sunderland in the Premier League, before dropping down into the English Football League.

The now-36-year-old’s gambling addiction was well-publicised throughout his career, including when he checked into the Sporting Chance health clinic in 2011 to seek professional help.

In his discussion with former problem gambler-turned-campaigner Chris Gilham, Chopra opened up about his experience with gambling addiction and the two discussed their respective roads to recovery.

The former striker commented on how gambling became his second passion after his sport, saying: “I never ever let anything get in the way of my football but as soon as the whistle went, my mind just suddenly changed and all of a sudden I was thinking about gambling.”

He also credited Manchester United legend Roy Keane for helping him to overcome his compulsive habits: “He really took his time to speak to me and took time out of training. It was Roy that really got me the help that I needed.”

Meanwhile, Gilhan identified his family as being central to his recovery, particularly his mother and wife. 

“It wasn’t until my mum said to me ‘he’s ready’ and that it really struck me as she knew I was ready,” said Gilhan.“Until I was ready, it wasn’t going to change.

“I was then able to tell my wife that I needed help and that I was going to change. That was over three years ago and I haven’t gambled since that day.”

Chopra encouraged anyone struggling with gambling addiction to take advantage of the TalkBanStop service, saying: “There is light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re going through a dark phase you don’t think that. If you’re struggling like I was and need support, head to TalkBanStop.com.”

TalkBanStop will offer free tools to support problem gamblers in managing their betting behaviours, with the aim of helping those struggling over the Christmas period.

Support will be provided via trained advisors available on GamCare’s National Gambling Helpline and Gamstop’s self-exclusion programme that prevents users from creating new accounts and accessing existing ones with all UK online betting operators.

In a statement, GamCare CEO Anna Hemmings said: “The TalkBanStop campaign sends a message of hope to those who are struggling with gambling but don’t know how to start their recovery journey, by providing free tools and support that give breathing space to reflect on what’s going on. The first step is simply talking to someone. 

“There is support out there to help you make empowered choices about your recovery, and we urge anyone suffering in silence to be inspired by Michael and Chris. They show it can happen to anyone, but if they can get through it, so can you.”