Leicester widow petitions for progress on betting law review – BBC News

Annie and Luke Ashton

Annie Ashton

A widow has handed in a petition calling on the government to publish a review of gambling laws.

Annie Ashton, from Leicester, has called for a review of the law since her husband Luke killed himself.

She said he developed a gambling disorder while he was furloughed and despite his efforts to stop, the offer of “free bets” kept luring him back.

The government said it was “determined to protect those most at risk of gambling-related harm”.

Her petition – signed by nearly 70,000 people – was given to the gambling minister Chris Philp on Thursday.

Mrs Ashton said the current laws, set out in The Gambling Act 2005, were “outdated” and did not take online betting into consideration.

The government pledged to review gambling laws in its 2019 manifesto, but has yet to implement changes.

It said: “The Gambling Act is increasingly becoming an analogue law in a digital age.”

Luke Ashton

Annie Ashton

Mrs Ashton said: “If the gambling laws had changed to make gambling safer sooner, Luke and hundreds of others would be alive today.

“Every day the white paper is delayed is another life lost, another family, like mine, needlessly shattered.”

Mrs Ashton is hoping the government will introduce legislation that stops firms from offering free bets.

She said: “When people are given free bets it’s an incentive to gamble more.

“For anyone, that can result in a gambling disorder.

“It’s encouraging you to put more money into a system and for Luke, that’s what happened and we unfortunately lost him.”

She also wants to see laws on gambling advertising introduced that are similar to those for alcohol and tobacco.

In December 2020, the government launched a review of gambling laws and the Gambling Act Review calls for evidence closed in March 2021.

It said they were carefully considering the 16,000 responses submitted, adding the white paper – policy documents that set out proposals for future legislation – has not been delayed, as no specific date was set for its publication.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are determined to protect those most at risk of gambling-related harm while giving adults the freedom to choose how to gamble safely.

“We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age. We will publish a white paper which sets out our vision for the sector in the coming weeks.”

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