Gambling: the hidden killer – bereaved parents hold day of action in Westminster to call for gambling product safety testing, an end to predatory advertising and health warnings
Bereaved parents from the charity Gambling with Lives will be holding a day of action in Westminster on Wednesday 26th February to alert people to the grave risk to mental health from gambling.
They will be calling for:
- Safety testing and classification of addictive industrialised gambling products;
- An end to predatory marketing and advertising, including football sponsorship
- Health warnings that gambling causes mental health problems that can lead to suicide;
The day will see the final leg of a 100 mile walk via 6 football clubs culminating in a rally at Parliament and a march to Downing Street to hand a letter to the Prime Minister. There will then be a reception in Parliament which will be addressed by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Right Honourable Matt Hancock MP with a number of prominent MPs in attendance.
The charity appears at the House of Lords Select Committee into the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling on Tuesday 25th February.
The charity highlights that 250 – 650 people die in the UK each year because of gambling related suicide. They say that safety testing and classification of products are urgently required along with health warnings to alert people to the mental health problems caused by gambling and the risk of suicide. Gambling advertising is preying on young people and should be banned, as was the case before 2005.
Gambling with Lives was set up by Liz and Charles Ritchie and other parents whose children took their own lives as a result of gambling addiction, in order to warn other families of the danger to children and young people.
Charles and Liz’s son Jack died in 2017, aged 24, having been addicted to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals while at school playing with his friends, and then online gambling products.
Charles and Liz Ritchie have recently gained Article 2 status under the Human Rights Act for the inquest hearing into their son’s death. This means that the UK government may be seen to be responsible for the failure to provide warning information for them and their son and the lack of treatment for him.
Liz Ritchie said:
“Where are the warnings? A six year old knows that smoking kills, they should also know that gambling kills. The Gambling Commission says that warning the public of the danger of addiction and death from toxic gambling products is not their job – it’s the job of charities. But charities funded by the gambling companies say that they don’t warn people because they don’t campaign. So families need to help each other - research shows that up to 650 people every year die in the UK because of gambling. People think it’s the stress of financial debt that kills you – it’s not – gambling affects your mental health and can lead to suicide”.
“When young people are enticed into gambling they do not know that they are being given the equivalent of hard drugs – the electronic machines and online games are highly addictive. There has been an explosion of online gambling which now means that addictive casino style games and relentless high speed in-game sports gambling are available 24/7 via your mobile phone. We want to ban aggressive marketing VIP schemes, free bets and sign-up offers. We want to see safety checks on gambling products before they are put onto the market.”
Gambling with Lives’ day of action comes ahead of the Government’s planned review of gambling legislation. The Government has said that they know that gambling causes anxiety and depression and Gambling with Lives are underlining that that the new legislation needs to be focused on protective public health. The starting point should be minimising harm from gambling rather than focusing on growing the industry to generate tax or promote its growth. Studies have shown that gambling does not generate wealth across the wider community and that there are significant costs to the public purse.