The Sheffield Coroner’s Court has begun its inquest into the death of Jack Ritchie (24), a ‘chronic gambling addict’ who in November 2017 took his own life.
The scheduled two-week hearing will examine the role of UK gambling in his death, with regards to industry regulation and the support structures available to those suffering from gambling addiction and mental health disorders.
Ritchie’s death has received nationwide coverage, as his spiral into gambling addiction has raised deep-rooted concerns on UK gambling’s safeguards and controls to identify and treat problem gamblers.
Led by Ritchie’s parents (Charles and Elizabeth) – who founded gambling-reform charity ‘Gambling with Lives’ – the inquest will examine whether Jack’s death can be recognised as a system-wide failure of the governance of the gambling sector.
The Ritchies believe that Jack was a victim of failures by UK authorities to address industry-related problem gambling concerns, in which their son “should have been diagnosed or offered treatment linked to his disorders”.
Of significance, Jack’s death has been marked as the UK’s first ‘Article-2 Inquest’ examining a gambling-related suicide. Under Article-2, the inquiry is allowed to probe ‘wider circumstances’ surrounding death such as a state, system or enterprise failure.
Monday’s hearing saw Sheffield coroner David Urpeth outline the inquiry’s remit that will examine what “information was available to Jack and his family about the risks of gambling and what treatment and support was available to him”.
The Sheffield Coroner has named DCMS, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the Health and Social Care Department, alongside RET charity GambleAware as interested parties.
Meanwhile, National Gambling Helpline operator GamCare has instructed barrister 5 Essex Court to disclose all available information related to helping the inquiry.
Day-1 hearings recounted Jack’s teenage (underage) engagements with gambling, that would become chronic and problematic during his time as a student at Hull University.
As a teenager, Jack is reported to have begun gambling on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), but would later move onto online gambling formats as a young adult.
Arbitrators were told of how an undiagnosed Jack changed his attitude to gambling risks becoming a ‘loss chaser’ seeking big wins to cover personal losses.
The Ritchie family hopes that the Article-2 inquest into their son’s death will change how UK gambling is governed – an issue that is currently being addressed by DCMS’ review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Gambling with Lives has called for problem gambling disorders to be treated by a ‘new structure’ independent of the gambling industry funding. The charity further supports a blanket ban on gambling advertising and the enforcement of induvial affordability checks on UK gambling consumers
On, Tuesday 8 March, a ‘Gambling Reform Rally’ will be hosted by the Parliamentary groups of Gambling Related Harm APPG and Peers for Gambling Reform.
DCMS undersecretary Chris Philp, who leads the Gambling Review, will provide stakeholders with an update on the government’s pending reforms and agenda.