Tuesday this week, 13th November 2018, was the launch of Gambling with Lives (GwL) at the Houses of Parliament. The event was extremely well attended by individuals and organisations active in the fields of gambling treatment, policy and research and by a number of MPs including Ian Duncan Smith who feels strongly about the issue and Tracey Crouch who has recently resigned as Gambling Minister. The new Minister for Suicide Prevention gave an excellent speech, saying that gambling-related suicide was top of her agenda – a sure sign that GwL is being successful in getting its message across. The highlight, though, was the speech, both moving and passionate, by Charles, on behalf of Liz and Charles, parents of Jack, who took his own life almost exactly a year ago. Charles spoke about their son but also about their anger at discovering how little those in the field had found out about gambling and suicide and how complacent everyone seemed to be about the dangers of gambling and the activities of the gambling industry. None of us were let off the hook.
It is just those dangers and that complacency that everyone who has posted on the Gambling Watch UK website has been on about over the last three or four years. And, specifically, it is just that danger of suicide and those suicidal thoughts and feelings that so many of you have been talking about when you talk about your own gambling problems.
But there is good news! I am not alone in sensing that the tide is turning against an unfeeling industry and a complacent government. GwL has already made a difference and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling has achieved its goal at last, after years of delay, of getting government to give in to pressure to reduce the maximum stake on the FOBTs from £100 to £2. Tracey Crouch’s resignation because of the further delay there was to have been in implementing the change was a factor in forcing the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go back on part of his budget statement and agree to bring the implementation forward to April next year.
Meanwhile there is now support for reform across the political spectrum. The Labour Party has outlined its proposals for gambling reform including a compulsory levy on the industry, greater control of gambling advertising and, most significant of all, preparation for a completely new Gambling Act. That is what Gambling Watch UK will now add its voice to. We need to re-write the 2005 Act which started from the premise that gambling is an ordinary entertainment product like any other and that Britain should be a gambling industry world leader. Our legislation needs to start from a different place: gambling is no ordinary commodity, it is dangerous, a matter of public health, and government should put its duty of care to its citizens before all other considerations.