Gambling with Lives

  • You may have seen media reports of the recently concluded inquest into the death of Jack, son of Liz and Charles Ritchie who started the impressive campaigning group Gambling with Lives (GwL), GwL has put out a statement, part of which is reproduced here:

    The coroner’s findings were very powerful and will have major implications for the government and the Gambling Act review. After hearing detailed testimony from a wide range of witnesses including ourselves and Jack’s friends, doctors and gambling treatment specialists, government, the Gambling Commission, GambleAware and GamCare, the coroner concluded that there had been major failings in terms of insufficient public health information, poor regulation and inadequate treatment and that these had all contributed to Jack’s death. He said that the warnings, information, and treatment available to Jack were “woefully inadequate” and pointed out that there were “still significant gaps in these areas”.

    Due to the ongoing risks to the lives of others, the coroner also issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Care. This requires that the departments must respond within 56 days with “details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action”.

    The coroner’s rulings also destroyed the industry-favoured “responsible gambling/individual responsibility” model, which tries to claim that the problem lies with just a few weak or flawed individuals. We were very pleased to hear the coroner state that “being addicted to gambling wasn’t his [Jack’s] fault”.  During the inquest, there was a great deal of evidence heard about the addictiveness of some gambling products.

    That acknowledgement – from government and from across the gambling landscape – is a huge step forward and is a powerful message to the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who are suffering with gambling disorder. It is not their fault; they are not weak or flawed individuals; they should not have to bear any stigma or shame; everyone is at risk. Rather we need tougher regulation on gambling products and the practices of the industry, as well as vastly improved information on the dangers of gambling and more and much better treatment available.

    The inquest also revealed the failures in the regulation of dangerous gambling products, some with addiction and at-risk rates of 50 per cent, and the inadequate requirements on operators to intervene and prevent harm. The coroner noted that the system of regulation “did not stop Jack gambling at a point when he was obviously addicted to gambling”. Sarah Gardner, the Deputy CEO of the Gambling Commission, which is charged with regulating gambling products and industry practices, admitted that the progress the Commission has made in addressing gambling-related suicide has been “disappointing”.