Julie Bentley, the CEO of the British and Irish support organization Samaritans, has criticized Michael Dugher, the CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), for allegedly misconstruing the charity’s stance to downplay the association between gambling addiction and suicide.
Dugher had referenced the Samaritans’ statement that “suicide is complex” during a testimony to the UK government’s Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee in response to questions about the tragic suicide of Luke Ashton. However, the Samaritans responded by highlighting that the coroner in the Ashton case had identified a “gambling disorder” as one of the contributing factors to his death.
Bentley expressed her disappointment, drawing parallels between the tactics used by Dugher and those seen in the tobacco industry. She emphasized that while the causes behind suicide are multifaceted, the connection between gambling-related harms and suicide risk cannot be ignored.
The BGC has refuted the accusation, asserting that Dugher was directly quoting the Samaritans’ public guidelines on suicide reporting, without adding his own interpretation. They further clarified that Dugher acknowledged the coroner’s findings in Mr. Ashton’s case during his testimony.
Samaritans, which has an ongoing program focused on suicide and gambling-related harms, urges BGC members to prioritize safety even before new regulations are established.
Echoing the Samaritans’ concerns, Gambling with Lives, a charity founded by families affected by gambling-related suicides, also condemned Dugher’s remarks. The charity’s director, Will Prochaska, lauded the Samaritans for its steadfast stance in exposing the gambling industry’s potential role in such tragic outcomes.