United Kingdom

Ministers refuse to commit to closing 'blatant' loophole

Ministers have refused to commit to closing the 'blatant' loophole that allowed a gambling firm to dodge a £3.5million fine after an addict's suicide. 

Chris Bruney took his own life hours after being given £400 of bonuses by staff at online casino Winner.co.uk, which is owned by Playtech. 

It avoided punishment by closing down its subsidiary company. 

In a victory for the Daily Mail's gambling campaign, it bowed to pressure and said it would pay the fine in full. 

Gambling addict Chris Bruney, 25, from Sheffield, lost a total of £119,000 in the five days before his death, but instead of shutting his account Winner.co.uk plied him with cash bonuses and free bets

But the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has refused to commit to closing the loophole. 

A Whitehall source said there would be discussions to see if there were 'lessons to be learned'. 

Charles Ritchie, of charity Gambling with Lives, said: 'Of course the Government should close this loophole in the law. 

'The Bruney family... has been traumatised again by the failure of the Gambling Commission investigation to yield justice for Chris.'

Gambling expert Dr James Noyes, a senior fellow of the Social Market Foundation, said: 'A loophole that prevents the regulator imposing a fine when regulations have been broken needs to be closed.

'At the moment the whole system is so opaque and deliberately complicated that even the authorities struggle to get to the bottom of what's going on. 

'It needs a total overhaul.'

The Bruney family had been closely engaged with the investigation into Playtech's subsidiary called PT Entertainment Services after his partner collected information from his betting account and passed it to the Gambling Commission, the industry's policeman, in autumn 2018.

Last Wednesday, as the findings were announced his mother, who asked not to be named, said: 'We have been denied justice. We are heartbroken and we have been let down.'

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