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Mark Lee once told creditor: 'go ahead, take one of my hands'

The actor revealed he took 7-8 years to clear his gambling debts

Actor Mark Lee has never kept his past gambling addiction a secret. 

In 2019, he opened up about the issue in a video for the National Council on Problem Gambling, revealing how he used to spend up to $5,000 a week betting on 4D.

The 53-year-old has taken several, arduous steps since then to successfully erase the gambling habit from his life.  

So when Hear U Out host Quan Yifeng asked the star on the first episode of the show's third season to pick a time in his youth he could return to, Lee not surprisingly chose his thirties – when his gambling addiction was at its peak. 

Looking at a picture of himself from back then, Mark said he looked like a “zombie”. 

“The thing I want to tell (the old Mark) is that I wouldn’t have hurt so many people if I hadn’t been so hooked on gambling back then,” he said.

He explained that he was heavily in debt and used to live in anxiety and fear every day because he never knew which of his creditors would be waiting for him outside Mediacorp when he left work.

When Quan asked how he managed to pay off his debts, Lee said he had to first quit gambling.

“Had I not quit, I’d have been continuously borrowing money and gambling again and again. Once I quit, I realised I was able to pay my debts off in small amounts, like $50 to $150 over time.” 

Lee revealed that it was his mother that made him make the pivotal turn in his life. 

"From when I started gambling to when I lost money and racked up debts, my mum never said a single word about it to me," he said. 

"Maybe it's from her body language, but I saw that she had a lot more veins in her hands. That was when I knew I really had to stop gambling."

Lee said he took seven to eight years to clear his debts, which had amounted to over $200,000. 

Once he even told one of his creditors: “If you want to take one of my hands, go ahead. But you must know that if I were to lose a hand, I’d be able to pay you less 'cos I wouldn’t be able to work as much with just one hand. But I can guarantee that I’ll pay you a certain amount every week or every month.”

So what would Lee say to his younger self?

“I would say ‘Thank you’, because without the experiences you gave me, I might not have developed the acting skills I have from living through that situation, and it has helped me better express my character’s emotions. 

“And perhaps due to my past, my overall mentality has matured faster compared to others.”

MARK LEEGambling