Former S Club 7 star Jo O'Meara has opened up about her shock gambling addiction for the first time, admitting that it helped her escape "the bad stuff".
Jo, 43, found fame with pop group S Club 7 at the tender age of 20 in 1990, and she and her bandmates saw massive success in the UK with hits such as Reach for the Stars.
However, now Jo has admitted that things weren't always as rosy as they seemed, and she found herself seeking an escape from the pressures of the limelight by playing on fruit machines.
She appeared on Thursday's episode of ITV's Lorraine, where she talked to the Scottish TV personality about her battles with addiction.
She told Lorraine: "It became a bit of a thing. With the band, it was so busy and so hectic, I just used it as a bit of escapism to run away with myself for a little while".
Jo continued: "I got caught up in the flashing lights and getting the three sevens or leprechauns, or whatever it would be. It was just a bit too much fun."
Lorraine asked her if her bandmates knew about her gambling, she said frankly: "Yeah, they did. When we used to travel around the county, it was like, "Where's Jo?" Everyone would know – "Oh, she's on the fruit machines." But it was just what I did."
When asked by Lorraine if she ever knew it was a problem, Jo said: "I don't think I ever did. When I look back I think, 'I shouldn't really have been doing that', because what you learn as you get older is you never win."
Explaining the thrill she found in the machines, Jo told Lorraine: "It was about beating the machine, getting the three sevens, the excitement of that was making me want to do it even more."
Lorraine asked if she ever won and Jo said: "You never win… that's why I'm here today, to highlight it because it's everywhere."
Jo also highlighted the issue with gambling on mobile phones, saying: "It's not real money is it? When you're pressing a button, it's so easy to fall into a very, very dark place… It could happen to anybody. I think there's still a big stigma to it, where people associate gambling with a man sitting in a betting place or a poker table.
"It's not the case at all. It's happening a lot more than it has before. I wanted to reach out to people and say, 'I've been there myself, I understand it, there's no shame in picking the phone up and asking for help.'"
Speaking about how she eventually beat her addiction, Jo said: "I thought one day, 'That's it, I'm done.' I haven't looked at a machine once, but I understand it's not like that for everybody. You do get caught up in it. But there's help there."
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