Ministers were told to ‘buck up and deliver’ on gambling reform after a Daily Mail audit revealed the devastating toll of betting addiction.
An investigation has uncovered close to 100 suicides in which problem gambling was a significant factor in a decade.
Campaigners said the tragic roll call of names – 36 of whom are pictured here – showed ‘the stark reality’ of the harm caused by ‘greedy and amoral’ companies.
Senior Tories are angered that once-in-a-generation reform looks set to be watered down, and urged Boris Johnson to ignore lobbyists and Treasury penny-pinchers.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘People are dying. Ministers promised reform and now they need to deliver.’
A final announcement on the reforms was expected this week, but it looks likely to be delayed.
Families whose loved ones have committed suicide due to gambling are calling on ministers to introduce reform. Vicitims pictured left to right: Aaron Armstrong, Aaron Sluman, Chris Bruney, Chris Dyson, Huseyin Yaman and Jack Ritchie
Left to right: Jordan Feek, Joshua Hall, Lee Murphy, Lewis Keogh, Philip Tomlinson and Robert Shone
Key measures to stem the gambling death toll have been diluted as a result of a rift at the top of the Conservative Party.
Gambling minister Chris Philp and the Department of Health are pitted against the Treasury, which is concerned that reform could hit its tax take from gambling.
Cabinet Office minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has delayed reform having rejected as ‘un-Conservative’ a tax to fund NHS treatment for gambling addiction, insiders said. He is said to favour a version of the current system in which betting firms voluntarily pay 0.1 per cent of their revenue towards research and treatment. However, campaigners want a legal requirement for them to pay 1 per cent.
Mr Rees-Mogg believes the rules should not stop gamblers who do not have an addiction or debts spending their cash as they wish.
The Mail understands he is backed by Mr Johnson’s deputy chief of staff David Canzini, formerly director of a firm that had Ladbrokes Coral as a client.
But families want stark reforms.
Julie Martin, whose husband Bill Troshupa killed himself in November in front of their 16-year-old son, said: ‘The gambling companies are monsters. Gambling must be regulated securely so people are not losing their lives, and families are not losing loved ones.’
Left to right: Andrew David Nabb, Bill Troshupa, Daniel Clinkscales, David Armstrong, Jimmy Farrell and Joey Beauchamp
Left to Right: Bradley Whitehall, Brandon Windeatt-Ball, Florin Batrincs, Fred Harper-McShane, John Anderson and Jordan Choudhury
Public Health England estimates there are 409 gambling-related suicides a year – more than one a day.
The 94 gambling deaths uncovered by the Mail make up the largest list ever compiled. They included Brandon Windeatt-Ball, a 21-year-old who gambled away £10,000 saved towards a house deposit, and 28-year-old NHS worker Joshua Hall, who lost half his annual salary in days.
Rebecca Hanks, who tried to help her son Mason Moore, 20, battle his addiction by controlling his bank account, said: ‘The gambling companies are just greedy. People can try their hardest to get away from their addiction, but the bookmakers reel them back in.’
Jordan Choudhury, 25, took his life in February 2021 after playing on slot machine websites ‘through the night’ and losing £11,000. He told his family: ‘The next time you will see me I will be in my box.’
His sister, Michelle Bidder, said: ‘I want the Government to stop making it so easy for people to run up huge debts on gambling sites.’
The Mail found 47 named suicides. Charities that help bereaved relatives said they were supporting another 47 families who did not wish to speak publicly.
Left to Right: Kimberley Wadsworth, Lee Collins, Natsha White, Phil Stretton, Charleene Carlson and Ryan Myers
Left to right: Joshua Jones, Jowen Evans, Luke Ashton, Mason Moore, Omair Abbas and
A further 21, whose death certificates mentioned gambling, were recorded by the Office for National Statistics between 2001 to 2016, meaning the total number of known suicides could be as high as 115, although campaigners stress there is rarely a single factor that leads to a person taking their life.
Last night, Mr Philp told fellow ministers: ‘Gambling-related harm is a serious public health issue which can devastate lives. I’ve heard too many cases of people being led down a path to a dark destination. Reform of our gambling laws is needed.’
Ministers are likely to let gambling ads and sponsorship in sport continue with few restrictions, and free bets will only be banned for heavy losers, sources said.
But Sir Iain said: ‘People are dying who should not have died. Opponents of reform need to get off their calculators and get out into the real world and see the damage this uncontrolled behaviour is having.
‘It’s going to get nasty unless ministers buck up and do something. The Treasury is fussing about taxation and we’re campaigning to save lives – you tell me who has the moral high ground.’
Lord Chadlington, ex-chairman of Action On Addiction, said: ‘Everything I hear is disappointing. This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the Government to save lives, protect the vulnerable yet allow those who can safely gamble to do so with the minimum of risk.’
The Mail’s Stop The Gambling Predators campaign aims to curb online gambling.
There are thought to be 400,000 gambling addicts in the UK – perhaps as many as 1.4million.
Experts say 5 per cent of problem gamblers have attempted suicide in the previous year.
For support, contact the Samaritans on freephone 116 123, or Gambling With Lives at [email protected] or 07864 299 158.