Sheffield gambling campaigners subjected to ‘vile’ abuse by online trolls

Adam Bradford and his father David
Adam Bradford and his father David

A father and son from Sheffield who are campaigning for stricter gambling laws have been subjected to ‘vile’ abuse online, which has left them fearing for their safety.

David Bradford, from Waterthorpe, was jailed for two years for fraud in 2014 after stealing more than £50,000 to fund the gambling addiction the 62-year-old had hidden from his family.

He and his son Adam, 25, have since fought for greater protection for the one million people in the UK who are estimated to be addicted to gambling or at risk of becoming so.

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They secured a major victory in May, when the Government announced plans to slash the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting machines –described as the ‘crack cocaine’ of the gambling world – from £100 to £2 to protect vulnerable users.

But Adam says that breakthrough has been soured by the torrent of abuse directed at him and his father since then, which he believes comes from ‘deluded’ gamblers believing their liberties are being eroded or from those working within the industry who fear their jobs are under threat.

One Facebook comment, referring to David, said ‘I bet he's dead by Christmas’, while another stated ‘he should have tried porn and whacked off compulsively for free’.

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“We’d been getting nasty comments since we began campaigning but it's intensified since the announcement in May,” said Adam.

“Some of the abuse is really vile and deluded, and it’s fuelled by misconceptions about what we’re trying to do to reduce the huge amount of harm caused by gambling addiction.

“My dad in particular is genuinely concerned for our safety.

“He’s a recovering addict, who I don't think will ever forgive himself for what he did, and this abuse is affecting him so badly he’s considering giving up campaigning which would would be so sad after all the work we’ve put in.”

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Adam added that he had reported about a dozen of the worst comments but police said it was a matter for Facebook and Twitter, which he claimed had not responded to his concerns.

There have also been many messages of support, he said, from people thanking the pair for giving them a voice and letting them know they were not alone in battling gambling addiction.

Adam is concerned, meanwhile, about a potential delay in implementing the lower stakes and other measures promised in May by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

At the time, ministers said it was expected the new limit would be enforced within nine to 12 months but the following month it was reported that its introduction had been postponed until April 2020, following pressure from industry leaders.

“From what we’ve been told by the people making the machines, limiting the stakes is a very simple procedure, so we would like to see it done as quickly as possible,” he said.

“In the meantime, we hope the Government will get on with making the other changes we've been campaigning for, including coordinated help for the many gambling addicts who are suffering because they can't afford to pay for private therapy.”