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The head of the Samaritans support charity has accused BGC chief Michael Dugher of attempting to “twist” its words in a bid to diminish the link between gambling addiction and suicide.
Dugher, the chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), cited Samaritans advice that “suicide is complex” when giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on gambling last month.
The Committee was questioning Dugher on the dangers of addictive gambling products when the suicide of Luke Ashton was raised.
The Samaritans does claim there “is usually a combination of lots of different factors”. However, in the Ashton case a coroner had concluded that a “gambling disorder” was one of two causes of death.
Charity lays out its concerns
Samaritans has written to both Dugher and Dame Caroline Dinenage MP to set out its concerns. Dinenage is chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
“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,” said Julie Bentley, chief executive of Samaritans.
“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 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.”
Samaritans work on gambling harms and suicide
Samaritans is currently undertaking a programme of work around suicide and gambling-related harms.
In a publication entitled “Suicide facts for journalists and programme makers”, Samaritans says: “Suicide is complex and most of the time there isn’t one event or factor that leads someone to take their own life. It is usually a combination of lots of different factors interacting with each other to increase risk. A combination of individual, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide.”
In her letters to Dugher and Dinenage, dated 17 August, Bentley said she was “concerned that Samaritans’ messaging around talking about suicide responsibly is being deliberately used to evade recognition of the established link between gambling and suicide risk”.
Addressing link between gambling and suicide
Bentley said she is hopeful the gambling white paper can address the link between addiction and suicide. “There is nevertheless room for BGC members to increase safety in the here and now, well in advance of any future regulatory requirements,” she added.
Gambling with Lives, a charity set up by families bereaved by gambling-related suicide, said it is backing Samaritans in its complaint.
“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,” said Will Prochaska, strategy director of Gambling with Lives.
“We commend Samaritans for standing alongside families bereaved by gambling related suicide in calling it out.”
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