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Parents Speak Against 24-Hour Betting Shop

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The parents of a young man who tragically took his own life due to a gambling addiction have voiced their strong opposition to plans for a 24-hour betting shop in Spalding.

Liz and Charles Ritchie, who founded the Gambling with Lives charity after the death of their son Jack in 2017, are raising concerns about the potential harm such an establishment could cause to vulnerable individuals.

Concerns About 24-Hour Betting Shop

The casino company Merkur Slots is reportedly considering applying for a 24-hour license at its Hall Place venue. The proposal comes in spite of previous limitations on operating hours that were granted in July 2022, allowing the venue to open from 07:00 to midnight on weekdays and Saturdays, and from 10:00 to midnight on Sundays.

However, the Ritchies argue that this extension of hours could lead to increased harm and rise in problem gambling, especially among those who wager late at night or through the night. Mr. Ritchie emphasized that there is already a significant concentration of bookmakers in the town center, making the addition of a 24-hour facility unnecessary and potentially detrimental to the local community.

"The last thing you need is a kind of all-night facility," Mr. Ritchie expressed in an interview with the BBC. He cited clear statistics indicating that late-night gambling significantly raises the risk of harm to individuals with gambling addiction.

Company's Response

In response to the concerns raised, a representative from Merkur Slots indicated that the company had not yet submitted an application and thus could not comment on the matter. The company emphasized that it would work closely with responsible bodies and undertake due diligence before proceeding with any application.

The proposed extension of operating hours has prompted a revisit of the original planning decision by the Ritchies and the wider community. According to planning documents, the initial approval of restricted hours was based on the consideration that the venue is located within a quiet street at night. Allowing 24-hour use, the planning inspectorate had warned, could adversely affect the living conditions of the existing residents.

Liz and Charles Ritchie's commitment to preventing further gambling-related tragedies led them to establish the Gambling with Lives charity, earning them MBEs in the New Year's Honors list in 2018. The couple has consistently emphasized the direct link between gambling-related suicides and addictive betting products, as well as the industry's marketing practices, which they describe as "predatory."

As the debate over the potential 24-hour betting shop unfolds, the community waits to see whether the pleas of the Ritchies and their supporters will influence the final decision. The tragic loss of their son Jack serves as a stark reminder of the devastating impact that gambling addiction can have on individuals and their families, fueling their determination to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future

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