Bereaved families gather at Westminster ahead of Gambling Act whitepaper

Forty family members bereaved by gambling-related suicide attended the Gambling with Lives annual parliamentary event to ensure their voices are heard before the imminent release of the Gambling Act review whitepaper.

The House of Commons event, which took place on March 1, focused on gambling’s threat to mental health and the regulatory changes needed to reduce gambling suicides.

Speakers included Lucy Frazer KC MP, in what was her first speech on gambling since replacing Michelle Donelan in February as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Lucy Frazer KC MP making her first speech on gambling.

“Gambling doesn’t just destroy the lives of the gamblers themselves, it has a devastating impact on their loved ones,” she said.

“The Review of the Gambling Act is an opportunity to make the changes we need, and to make sure we have the right protections in place for the digital age.”

Kim Leadbeater MP, with her constituent Kay Wadsworth, was one of more than 20 MPs to attend.

Lucy Powell MP, Shadow DCMS Secretary, Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm, and Paul Blomfield MP who hosted the event, also spoke, highlighting this issue has true cross-party support, along with Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, National Clinical Advisor on Gambling Harms.

“Enough. We are dealing, frankly, with abusive companies whose whole business model is built on destroying lives”

Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP

Gambling can have a catastrophic effect on mental health and gambling addiction is highly correlated with suicide. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities recently estimated there are up to 496 gambling-related suicides a year in England alone.

Alberto Costa MP with constituent Annie Ashton.

Families are calling for the whitepaper to include life-saving reforms such as a statutory levy to fund independent treatment, research, and education, together with evidence-based affordability checks, and an end to all gambling advertising. They also want dangerous gambling products – some with addiction/ at-risk rates of 45%, higher than heroin – to be made less harmful.

Publication of the whitepaper has been delayed many times. More than 1,300 people are estimated to have died by gambling suicide since the Conservatives first pledged to review the 2005 Gambling Act in their 2019 manifesto.

Liz Ritchie.

Liz Ritchie, co-founder of Gambling with Lives who lost her son Jack after he was drawn to gambling while still at school, said:

“There will be at least another gambling-related death today, there was one yesterday and will be one tomorrow.

“This time next year we will be together again and I will ask the same question and I would like all the politicians in power to imagine that they will be facing the families of the people who are alive now but will be dead.”

Read Liz Ritchie’s full speech here.

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