UK regulator criticised at opening of inquest

The Ritchies have also criticised the Gambling Commission's decision not to ban VIP programmes.
The Ritchies have also criticised the Gambling Commission's decision not to ban VIP programmes.

An inquest into the death of a young British man will investigate whether the state failed to treat his gambling issues.

UK.- An inquest will examine whether gambling “caused or contributed” to the death young a British man in Vietnam in November 2017.

The parents of Jack Ritchie, 24, have heavily criticised both the government and the Gambling Commission, saying that their son suffered gambling-related harm through engaging with “products licensed by the state”.

Liz and Charles have been campaigning for three years through the charity Gambling with Lives to call for legislative reform and better treatment of gambling-related harm.

Now coroner David Urpeth in Sheffield has ruled that the inquest into their son’s death, which is due to begin in February, will examine what role gambling played.

That scope will include analysing the state’s provision of medical treatment and whether the state failed to protect him from gambling related harm.

It will be an Article 2 inquest, which means it can examine whether any state body breached its duty to protect Mr Ritchie’s right to life.

The coroner rejected the Ritchies’ plea for the inquest to include a wider investigation into the effectiveness of British gambling regulation, but the inquest is likely to add to growing calls for reform as the government moves ahead with a review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

The Ritchies’ barrister, Paul Greaney QC, said: “The state bodies are seeking to prevent public scrutiny of the full extent of what we contend were their failures.”

Mrs Ritchie said: “We know that Article 2 is engaged, which means the state potentially did not protect Jack’s life.

“The final inquest will consider the state of regulation and then the coroner will decide if gambling killed Jack.”

Gambling with Lives has also criticised the decision of the Gambling Commission not to ban gambling VIP schemes completely.

Charles Ritchie told the Daily Mail: “We know so many people on ordinary incomes who have been destroyed by these schemes. They are dangerous and have no place in gambling.

“We do not want VIP schemes to be run more carefully, we want to see them stopped altogether.”

The Gambling Commission is expected to announce new measures for how operators interact with high-value customers including enhanced affordability checks and greater oversight from senior managers but not an outright ban on VIP schemes.

The Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a member of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, said: “By failing to ban VIP schemes the regulator is literally licensing abuse. 

‘The term ‘VIP’ is simply the means by which betting companies trap problem gamblers, potentially destroying them and their families. These schemes must be outlawed.”

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