The coroner investigating the suicide of a 24-year-old problem gambler Jack Ritchie has said that he will be writing to a number of government departments with warnings about how future deaths can be prevented, with a particular focus on the need for more training for GPs about gambling disorders.
Sheffield coroner David Urpeth said Ritchie’s death in Vietnam in November 2017 was a ‘stark reminder of the terrible consequences that can flow from an addiction to gambling’.
Urpeth said in a ‘narrative conclusion’ that information about the dangers of gambling were available at the time of Jack’s death, as was some treatment, but added that: “such warnings, information and treatment were woefully inadequate and failed to meet Jack’s needs.”
Reports say that Urpeth told the hearing that the ‘evidence showed there were still significant gaps’ in provision for gambling disorders and warnings about the dangers of gambling. The coroner said: “Jack did not understand that being addicted to gambling was not his fault. That lack of understanding led to feelings of shame and hopelessness which, in time, led to him feeling suicidal.”
Ritchie’s parents, the founders of the Gambling With Lives organisation, branded the industry as ‘parasites’ and also blamed a ‘collusive Government’. Mr Ritchie said: “The Government tried to blame his death on other factors – but there was none.”
As part of his conclusion, the coroner said that ‘gambling contributed to Jack’s death’.
Ritchie added: “The government accepted that our frontline NHS staff – our GPs, our nurses – had no training to be able to recognise, diagnose or treat gambling disorders. It must now be clear we need a statutory levy for the NHS to remove any gambling industry influence over information and treatment.”
A Gambling Commission spokesman told the media: “Jack’s death was a tragedy and we have met and spoken with Jack’s parents on several occasions to understand and agree how we can learn from their experience to inform the way we work.
“These conversations, along with those of others who have experienced harm, strengthens our commitment to protect consumers and make Britain’s gambling market fairer and safer.”
The coroner’s full report will likely loom large in discussions around the delayed review of gambling laws that the UK government has been conducting for a number of years now. The early reports of his findings suggest that the Government may have to take a more active role in gambling regulation than it has done up until now.