The parents of a young Sheffield man who killed himself have demanded further action to prevent gambling addiction claiming more lives.
Jack Ritchie took his own life last November, aged 24, after developing a crushing gambling addiction.
His mother Liz and father Charles have teamed up with other parents who lost their children to what they call the ‘invisible killer’ to set up the charity Gambling With Lives.
Also among the founders are the family and friends of another young Sheffield man, Chris Bruney, who died from suicide in April last year, aged 25.
The charity was launched on Tuesday – the day before the Government agreed to bring forward the introduction of a £2 maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from October 2019 to next April, after the earlier postponement attracted heavy criticism and prompted sports minister Tracey Crouch’s resignation.
Mr Ritchie welcomed the announcement about the machines, which have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and currently enable punters to risk £100 a pop, but said there was a long way to go.
“Gambling is the hidden addiction and gambling suicide has been invisible until now,” he said.
“Reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs is a much-delayed first step in curbing some of the worst excesses within the industry and stopping suicides caused by gambling, but there’s much more that needs to be done.”
The charity is seeking to raise awareness of gambling addiction and its devastating impact, increase regulation of the industry and improve treatment for those battling with a betting habit.
It is pressing for the introduction of a one per cent levy on gambling to fund research, education and treatment for addiction.
The charity’s launch event was hosted in parliament by Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, who last month heavily criticised the delay in slashing FOBT stakes.
He said: “My constituent Jack Ritchie took his own life aged just 24, as a result of gambling addiction. His parents are right – gambling is being normalised and it’s got to stop.
“This government u-turn is welcome. They should never have risked more lives being lost by delaying the maximum stake reduction. But unless this is the first step in a package of wider reform, more young men will die.
“From re-thinking advertising laws to considering gambling as a public health issue, we need to get serious about stopping the damage caused by gambling, in the same way we did with smoking a generation ago.”
For more information on the charity Gambling With Lives, visit www.gamblingwithlives.org.