A second inquest is to be held next week, into the death of a Leicester man who took his own life after getting into debt as a result of developing a gambling addiction during lockdown.
Luke Ashton died on April 22 2021, at the age of 40.
The father-of-two had suffered longstanding problems with gambling, which his widow claims was exasperated by him receiving free betting incentives and being “bombarded” by offers from gambling firm Betfair.
An initial inquest was held in August 2021, but was later adjourned while further investigations took place.
A new inquest is taking place next week to consider whether Mr Ashton had a gambling disorder and whether this caused or contributed to him taking his own life.
It will also consider whether Betfair contributed to the tragedy, through its free betting incentives.
Luke’s death occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when the Government and the Gambling Commission had issued statements about increased risks of gambling-related harm. The inquest will include consideration of whether any acts or omissions by Betfair contributed to Luke’s death.
The coroner has made Betfair’s parent company, Flutter UK & Ireland, an interested party in the inquest, with evidence reportedly set to be given by the company’s managing director.
They have previously denied “bombarding” Mr Ashton with gambling offers, which were available to all customers.
“My client sent Mr Ashton no direct marketing whatsoever. In broad terms, Mr Ashton took advantage of a free £5 bet per calendar month – available to all users,” said Mr Philip Kelvin KC, representing Flutters Ltd.
The inquest is due to hear evidence from Annie Ashton, Luke’s widow, as well as expert evidence from Professor Dame Clare Gerada, President of the Royal College of GPs, who specialises in addiction issues and set up the Primary Care Gambling Service in 2019.
Following her husband’s death, Mrs Ashton petitioned to make free betting incentives illegal, gaining more than 31,000 signatures to bring in “Luke’s Law”, calling for an end to free betting incentives.
In the petition, she stated: “My loving husband developed a gambling addiction after placing a ‘free bet’. “This consequently led to him to apply for loans that he could not pay back. He tragically took his own life four months later.
“My husband developed a gambling addiction. We managed to pay off his gambling debts and he kept his addiction at bay for almost 2 years. We have 2 children and he loved his family dearly. During lockdown, he had been furloughed and whilst I was at work and the children were in school, he was sent a ‘free bet’. From that day onwards, he gambled everyday and quickly lost control.”
The inquest will take place at Leicester Crown Court next Wednesday, June 14 to Friday June 16.