The head of Samaritans says BGC CEO Michael Dugher has tried to “twist” the charity’s words.
UK.- The head of the prominent British and Irish support charity Samaritans has accused the Betting and Gaming Council’s chief executive Michael Dugher of attempting to “twist” the group’s words to play down the link between gambling addiction and suicide.
Dugher had been questioned about the suicide of Luke Ashton when he gave evidence to the UK government’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last month. Dugher had cited the Samaritans as saying that “suicide is complex”.
However, Samaritans wrote to Dugher and to Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, the chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, to raise concerns. It pointed out that in the case mentioned, the coroner had ruled that a “gambling disorder” was one of two causes of death.
The charity’s CEO, Julie Bentley, wrote: “I am appalled that someone would attempt to twist Samaritans’ words in an effort to deflect from the devastating harm that gambling products can cause. This kind of diversionary tactic is reminiscent of what we saw from the tobacco lobby and it would seem the gambling industry is now taking a similar approach.
“Our position is that the reasons behind suicide are complex but there is an established link between gambling-related harms and suicide risk and it has more recently been recognised that gambling can be a dominant factor in a suicide, without which the death would not occur. Any attempt to deny this by misusing the words of a suicide prevention charity is nothing short of disgraceful.”
The BGG has denied manipulating Samaritans’ guidance. A spokesperson said: “Neither Michael Dugher, nor the BGC, has ever sought to manipulate guidance supplied by the Samaritans while discussing the tragedy of suicide. To suggest otherwise is a smear.
“Michael quoted directly – word-for-word – from the Samaritans’ own public guidance on the reporting of suicide. He did not interpret it or pass comment upon it. Furthermore, Michael was clear in his evidence that whilst recognising suicide cases are complex, he understood and acknowledged the full findings of the coroner in the tragic case of Mr Ashton, including specifically that Mr Ashton was suffering with an undiagnosed gambling disorder, a recognised psychiatric condition, and that the coroner had highlighted a failure of the systems used by the operator at that time.”
Samaritans has a programme of work on suicide and gambling-related harms. Bentley wrote that she hopes the UK reforms following the gambling white paper will address the link between addiction and suicide, adding: “there is nevertheless room for BGC members to increase safety in the here and now, well in advance of any future regulatory requirements.”
Gambling with Lives, a charity set up by families bereaved by gambling-related suicide, has added its voice to the complaint. Director Will Prochaska said: “Michael Dugher’s cynical manipulation of Samaritans’ position on suicide is a barefaced attempt to hide the gambling industry’s role in hundreds of deaths a year.
“We commend Samaritans for standing alongside families bereaved by gambling related suicide in calling it out.”