Today I led a debate on the Gambling Act review, following the Coroner’s Inquest into the tragic death of Jack Ritchie, a 24-year-old Sheffield constituent, who took his life as a result of his gambling addiction.
Jack’s inspirational parents, Liz and Charles, have made it their mission to stop gambling addiction claiming the lives of others, as it does too often — more than 400 people in England alone each year; around 8% of all suicides.
The ‘Article 2’ inquest into Jack’s death, which concluded this month, assessed whether the state had failed Jack and neglected his right to life – and produced the devastating finding that “warnings, information and treatment were woefully inadequate and failed to meet Jack’s needs”.
The Coroner also made the important point that “Jack didn’t understand that being addicted to gambling wasn’t his fault. That lack of understanding lead to feelings of shame and hopelessness” – challenging the industry-led view that blames those who become addicted to gambling.
His ‘Prevention of Future Deaths’ report, which called for action by three government departments, said that: “The treatment available and received by Jack was insufficient to cure his addiction – this in part was due to a lack of training for medical professionals around the diagnosis and treatment of gambling addiction”.
The coroner also concluded that gambling led to Jack’s death. As we approach gambling reform, I told the Minister that: “The industry must not be given the job of policing itself, and that is a powerful lesson from the inquest. 86% of its profits come from just 5% of its customers—those who are addicted or at risk of harm. The conflict of interest is clear.”
When Jack’s parents, Liz and Charles, first came to me, I had little knowledge of the extent of gambling addiction and the harm it can cause. The coroner’s seismic ruling in this inquiry, that Jack was failed by the state’s “woefully inadequate” protections, must now spur the Government to act and regulate the industry to stop it gambling with lives.