An epidemic of gambling-related suicides is not being taken seriously by betting companies and the Gambling Commission, according to campaigners.
Public Health England estimates that 409 people commit suicide for reasons associated with gambling every year, yet only eight such deaths have been investigated by the regulator since 2018.
During a recent inquest into the death of Jack Ritchie, Senior Coroner David Urpeth linked his suicide to gambling addiction and submitted a ‘Report to prevent future deaths’ to the Government, urging action.
Call for change
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, said: “I think there is very little evidence that the industry is acting responsibly and engaging with the extent of the problem.
“The industry either doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know, so it is the responsibility of society and the government to find out and to act on it.”
Will Prochaska, CEO of the charity Gambling with Lives, said: “The lack of a duty on operators to report deaths, and a corresponding failure to investigate deaths, has enabled gambling operators to continue marketing their products with little concern for people’s lives.”
Jack’s parents, and founders of Gambling with Lives, Charles and Liz Ritchie said: “Jack’s inquest revealed that the link between gambling and suicide has been known for years but it’s taken the deaths of thousands to start to make proper change.”
In its editorial, The Times described the Gambling Commission’s record on investigating gambling-related suicides as “risible” and suggested “the industry and its regulators are not taking gambling-induced misery seriously”.
The newspaper called on the Government, through its pending reform of the Gambling Act 2005, to introduce more robust legislation to reduce gambling harms. “Unchecked addiction”, it concluded, “is costing lives”.
When the Gambling Act 2005 was being considered by Parliament, The Christian Institute published ‘Gambling with our future’, which warned that the proposed liberalisation of gambling laws would lead to an increase in problem gambling.