A Sheffield man whose ‘devastating’ gambling addiction landed him behind bars, after he racked up £500,000 in debts, has launched a campaign group to help others.
David Bradford, from Waterthorpe, has teamed up with his son Adam to set up the not-for-profit Safer Online Gambling Group.
The 62-year-old former finance director was jailed for fraud in 2014 after stealing to fund the gambling addiction he had hidden from his family for years.
Since being released, he has made it his mission to fight for the support and protection he says was lacking when his habit spiralled out of control.
He and Adam, a 26-year-old entrepreneur, have already played a big part in getting the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting machines slashed and more recently exposing flaws in the industry’s self-exclusion scheme.
They plan to work with gambling’s leading players to get them to better look after their customers, while campaigning for tighter regulation, greater recognition of addiction and more support for those affected.
David said: “Ever since I came out of prison, I’ve felt this heavy burden of guilt and shame that I let my family down.
“Although I should have been at a crossroads where I made decisions to go this way or that, the choices for me to make any headway weren’t there at all.
“That motivated me and Adam to try to clean up the industry, which wasn’t treating its customers as people but as profit centres.
“With the launch of this group, which we hope will improve the lives of thousands of addicts across the country, that burden I’ve been carrying feels like it’s a bit shared.”
More than 430,000 people are addicted to gambling in the UK, according to the Gambling Commission, with a further two million at risk.
David described online gambling as a ‘devastating addiction’ for him, and said the psychological grip it had left him feeling like a ‘hamster in a wheel’.
“Free bets and glamorous adverts kept me betting until there was nowhere else to go but to steal money to keep the whole facade alive. It was a desperate and unforgivable situation, I just wish help was around at the time,” he added.
The new group has already teamed up with GVC, which owns Ladbrokes and Coral, as part of the company’s ‘Changing for the Bettor’ campaign to protect vulnerable punters, and is working with Sky Bet and the industry’s self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP.
Adam said he and his father hope to inspire a ‘massive attitude change’ within the industry, helping bookmakers take a more responsible approach while highlighting their successes and holding them to account when they fall short.
The group's big goals include getting more gambling addiction clinics set up across the UK, reducing the amount of advertising and ensuring ‘robust’ affordability checks are in place for online accounts.
Adam said: “We’re providing a voice for the voiceless and we want to work with the gambling industry, which has so far been very receptive, to help those most at risk.”
For more about the group, visit www.saferonlinegambling.org.