The boss of one of the country’s biggest online betting companies says the industry should consider funding a network of gambling treatment centres.
Richard Flint, executive chairman of Sky Bet, told BBC News the industry “hadn’t done enough to look after problem gamblers”.
The Gambling Commission estimates about 400,000 adults in Great Britain have a gambling problem.
Charity Gambling With Lives described Flint’s comments as “insulting”.
Its founders said he had underplayed the damage gambling addiction could do to people’s lives.
Sky Bet has been at the centre of the growth of the online betting industry and the company last year was valued at more than £3 billion.
Reflecting on his time at the company before he leaves his role next month, Flint said: “In the past, the industry has perhaps encouraged people to spend beyond their means.”
Sky Bet is one of Leeds’s biggest private employers, with 1,500 people based at its city HQ
In 2018 Sky Bet had to pay a £1m fine for “failing to protect vulnerable customers”.
Speaking exclusively to BBC News, Flint acknowledged there had been failings.
He said: “The industry hasn’t done enough to look after problem gamblers. We need to do more to self-regulate, and if we don’t do more there will be more regulation forced upon us.”
Charles and Liz Ritchie from Sheffield founded the charity Gambling
With Lives after their 24-year-old son Jack ended his life in 2017 after developing a gambling addiction.
“Jack started gambling whilst he was at school,” said Ritchie.
“And he took his own life because he never thought he would be free from gambling.”
Ritchie has described her son’s gambling addiction as like being addicted to heroin.
“I feel insulted by what Flint has said, it minimises the damage the industry has done to people’s lives,” she said.
“We have gambling companies saying they want to put money into treating gambling addiction, but they don’t want to put money into gambling prevention.”—BBC