Today I met Judith and Francesca in Parliament. Judith’s son Chris (pictured below), who was Francesca’s partner, took his own life last year, aged 25, as a direct result of his gambling addiction.
Judith fought back tears while she told me that Chris had everything in his life; a loving family, girlfriend, a really good job and he was fit, healthy and good looking. Gambling however, particularly on fixed odd betting machines (FOBTs) killed him.
He used to go out of college at lunchtimes with friends. There was a bookies right opposite the college. He would gamble in there. It started to become a problem for him. He became addicted, losing very significant amounts of money. The bookies never refused him.
Judith and Francesca want the gambling industry to be better regulated because the industry is a danger to health and puts people at risk. They want gambling advertising reduced or eliminated. They want the Government to implement a reduction in FOBTs stakes from £100 to £2 immediately.
My colleague Carolyn Harris MP has tabled an amendment to the Government’s Finance Bill (that implements the budget) to ensure that the reduction in stakes is implemented earlier than October 2019. I have added my name to the amendment and well over 100 other MPs from every other political party have done so. The Government is likely to be defeated next week, when we hope to vote on it.
This might seem like a ‘fringe’ issue or campaign. It’s not. Chris’s story is why I used my question in Prime Minister’s Questions straight after the election in June 2017, to ask the PM to commit to legislation against FOBTs.
If the Government continues to stall on taking action at the behest of the gambling industry lobbying (and Tory MPs from Keighley and Tewksbury) there will be more Chris’s and more bereaved families who will pay the cost.
Our vote next week, if successful, will literally save lives. The Government doesn’t need to wait until next week – it could take action now.