Last Friday the inquest opened into the death of my constituent Jack Ritchie, who tragically took his own life at the age of just 24, after battling a serious gambling addiction. I have been backing his parents who helped to establish Gambling with Lives with the families and friends of other young men who have taken their lives as a direct result of gambling and I hosted their launch in Parliament last November.
So I was in the Chamber today to question the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright MP when he made a statement to Parliament on the decision of some gambling companies to increase their voluntary levy on gambling profits from 0.1% to 1% through to 2023, adding around £60m to their current contribution to efforts to tackle problem gambling.
I mentioned Jack and was pleased the Secretary of State acknowledged the work, and dignity, of his parents. However, the action he outlined is far too modest to tackle the crisis of young men taking their own lives as a result of gambling addiction. I told him that the gambling ‘industry’ poses a real health threat, just as the tobacco industry once did in this country, making billions of pounds by creating misery and taking lives.
I called on the Government to go further and faster by introducing a mandatory levy; establishing effective independent regulation of gambling products and implementing a comprehensive ban on advertising like that applied to tobacco.
Gambling is creating a public health crisis that will not be solved by being a critical friend of the gambling industry; today’s measures are welcome, but they shouldn’t deflect us from the tougher action that we need.
You can see what I said, and the Minister’s response, below: