Exclusive: UKGC “Absolutely Committed” to Protecting Safety in Wake of Gambling with Lives Campaign

Responsible gaming charity asks Gambling Commission to establish if gambling companies have broken the law.
Exclusive: UKGC "Absolutely Committed" to Protecting Safety in Wake of Gambling with Lives Campaign
December 14, 2021

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been called on by Responsible Gaming charity Gambling With Lives (GWL) to investigate every gambling-related suicide in the UK.

50 members of 18 bereaved families came together at a gathering in Westminster, London in early December—the largest such assembly ever in the country—to call for investigations into deaths of their loved ones.

“Any loss of life connected with gambling harm is one too many and we are absolutely committed to protecting the safety of the public and players,” the UKGC told Casino Shield.

However, the Commission was keen to point out, “[I]t should be remembered that we are a regulator and in Britain it is the role of Coroner’s court to investigate deaths.”

That said, the UKGC possesses some powers, which it says it does use where appropriate.

The statement given to Casino Shield continued: “Nevertheless, when we become aware that a person has taken their own life and that gambling may have been a factor, we consider whether the operators the person gambled with were correctly following the social responsibility requirements we put in place. Where they have failed to act appropriately, we will take regulatory actions against them.”

GWL coordinated the event in order to publicize its concerns ahead of the Government’s long-awaited Gambling Act Review white paper.

The families have also set out a list of proposals to reduce harms from gambling. According to the GWL website, these include:

  • Public health messages on the risk to life of addictive gambling products.
  • Gambling to be made safer including changes to the most dangerous products.
  • Proper affordability checks.
  • Banning advertising and inducements to gamble such as “free” bonuses and VIP schemes.

Public Health England recently estimated that there are over 400 suicides a year related to gambling—a figure which represents 10% of all suicides in the UK. GWL says that only two such deaths have been investigated by UK Gambling Commission since 2015.

The charity points out that one of the regulator’s own stated objectives is to “protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling”—a pledge that GWL clearly feels is not being met.

In a recent blog post, UKGC CEO, Andrew Rhodes set out his thoughts on safer gambling practices. He drew particular attention to the proposal of a Single Customer View solution, which UKGC has been working on, in conjunction with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Charles and Liz Ritchie, started GWL after losing their son Jack to a gambling-related suicide in 2017.

Mr. Ritchie said, “It’s unacceptable that hundreds of mostly young people are dying every year and there are no investigations, and nothing is being learned. Gambling-related deaths need to be properly recorded and there must be an independent inquiry into every one of them.” Mrs Ritchie added “It has to stop now. We’re asking that the Gambling Commission investigates every gambling-related suicide for lessons to inform regulation and to establish if companies have broken the law.”

The Gambling Act Review white paper is due to be published in the coming weeks.

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