Gambling with Lives: Bereaved Sheffield parents pick up MBEs for campaign after son’s tragic death
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Liz and Charles Ritchie lost their son Jack, of Nether Edge, six years ago, after he killed himself aged just 24 after becoming addicted to betting while still at school. And both received MBEs yesterday from the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle, for their work setting up the charity Gambling with Lives in 2018.
Speaking about getting her award from WIlliam, Ms Ritchie said: "He said he didn't feel he could offer us congratulations wholeheartedly because the work that we did followed on from the death of our son.
"We talked about his work with men's mental health and that 500 deaths a year, about 10 per cent of all suicides, are related to gambling.And we talked about toxic forms of gambling that harm the brain. He just agreed, really."
Mr Ritchie said William is "not happy" that Aston Villa, the club the prince supports, has signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with gambling platform BK8. Premier League clubs collectively agreed in April to withdraw gambling sponsorship from the front of match shirts but the decision will only come into effect at the end of the 2025/26 season.
Speaking about William, Mr Ritchie said: "He was not happy with it and he thought that gambling sponsorship would be banned."
Ms Ritchie said: "He made it very clear that he didn't approve of the sponsorship. We talked about the advertising and just the sheer scale of the advertising and the fact that that's really unpopular with the public. Basically, he was agreeing with us."
Mr Ritchie said William agreed "it should be not a voluntary arrangement. This should be banned. This should be government legislation".
The couple, from Sheffield, have long argued that gambling-related suicide is directly linked to addictive betting products and the industry's "predatory" marketing practices. They founded Gambling with Lives to support other gambling-bereaved families and raise awareness of gambling-related suicide.
The couple were highly critical of the Government's gambling white paper, published in April, which they said goes "nowhere near" far enough. The long-awaited paper outlined a series of measures to make online gambling safer, including tougher affordability checks and limits on online slot machine stakes, but said most of the proposals would be subject to further consultation.
Mr Ritchie said: "As we sit here today, nothing has happened. It will be another two years before any of these changes are implemented. In that time, another 1,000 young people would have died. The couple dedicated their MBEs to those who have died from gambling addiction and their families.”
Ms Ritchie said: "Jack can't be here to speak for himself but we speak with his voice.
"It's on behalf of all the people who've died that we've accepted it and all the people who've been campaigning and all the other families. It's not us alone.
"It doesn't belong to us. It belongs to all of them."
Mr Ritchie, meanwhile, described the award as a "very public acknowledgement" of the dangers of gambling "by the Government".
He said: "We saw it as recognition by the Government of just how harmful gambling is.
"It is a very public acknowledgement of that."