The government should be ashamed at being so slow to act on FOBTs
Cheered by the unexpected political friendships forged in the fight against problem gambling, Lord Chadlington is content to end his week in the whirlwind of family life
I have never been happier or enjoyed a more satisfying and varied life. Every weekend is packed with happy times with our children and the grandchildren – but by the time the working week starts I am aching for some order, organisation and office discipline.
I base myself at the Mayfair offices of my communications consultancy. But I also have a number of private equity investments which demand attention. Free time centres around visits to the Royal Opera House, the Wigmore Hall, the Curzon Cinema – and, importantly, any help I can be in the addiction field.
Twenty years or so ago, Ann and Cecil Parkinson inspired me by asking me to chair their charity, Action on Addiction, founded to help those who – like their wonderful daughter, Mary – suffer from any form of addiction.
Until I chaired Action on Addiction, I inextricably associated addiction with substance abuse but my interest in gambling clearly demonstrated that you do not need a substance to become addicted. Any life can be ruined by almost any activity if, like me, you have an addictive personality.
When I learned that there could be as many as one suicide every morning, every afternoon of every working day caused in whole or in part by gambling, I resolved to campaign to change how we promote and advertise gambling; how we groom children online with games that teach them to gamble: how we help the two million people in the UK in danger of becoming gambling addicts and what we must do immediately for the 430,000 already addicted.
Working with Claire Murdoch, the Chief Executive of the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, and Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, has shown me how much more needs to be done. I took the new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, to the Clinic last week to show him first hand the serious consequences of gambling-related harm.
The House of Lords has proved a wonderfully supportive base for this campaign - starting with my debate a year ago about gambling advertising and its effect on children and then taking part in initiatives led by the Bishop of St Albans, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, Lord Clement-Jones, Baroness Walmsley and many others.
As our campaign has gathered momentum we have found the media – particularly the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph – hugely supportive and every week an article or a letter now appears in a national newspaper on the ‘normalisation’ of gambling.
As a result, I am making new friends in both Houses and across Party lines. I would never have thought I would find myself so much in agreement with Tom Watson or Sir Vince Cable. But we really are all in this together.
Personally, I found Tracey Crouch MP such an inspiration from the very first time I presented to her the outline of my gambling campaign. Tracey is a public servant of principle and she is a sad loss to this Government...but just watch her on the back benches!
At the heart of the campaign is the redoubtable Carolyn Harris – the Labour MP for Swansea East – and chair of the FOBT APPG where I am a vice chair. Party politics and egos are left outside the door when we meet. FOBTs are a moral disgrace.
Over 50% of regular users of FOBTs are likely to have some problems associated with gambling. And the Government should be ashamed that it is being so slow to act.
By the time Friday night comes, I am really ready for supper at my son’s neighbourhood restaurant and then on Saturday and Sunday the pandemonium of our family life hits us like a whirlwind.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lord Chadlington is a Conservative peer