The family of a respected accountant was torn apart after his secret gambling addiction was revealed. David Bradford, 63, ran up debts of £500,000 as he sank deeper into his online gambling and fruit machine habit.
The mild-mannered father-of-three turned to crime in a bid to cover his losses, stealing £53,000 from his employers. And, when his fraud came to light, he tried to hide it from his family – but was charged with fraud and jailed for two years.
But now – with the help of his son Adam – he has turned his life around and the two have spearheaded a campaign to help clean up the industry.
Their work has led to a decrease in the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 and an increase in NHS provision for gambling addicts.
Robbing Your Relatives
The Sheffield-based family’s story will be told on Wednesday 20 November in the documentary Robbing Your Relatives on Channel 5.
Over 430,000 people are thought to be addicted to gambling in the UK.
David seemed an unlikely candidate to fall victim to the addiction. He had a £70,000 a year job as an accountant, there were no money worries and family life was normal.
But in April 2014, he told his family he was facing a court appearance. He assured his wife Denise, 68, son Adam, 27 and twins Alex and Ryan, 23, that it was “work-related” and there was no cause for concern.
By late afternoon the next day, he had not returned home and, soon after the family received a call from his solicitor, telling them he was in the back of a van on his way to prison to start a two-year prison sentence.
David had been regularly “re-invoicing” his own wages through his firm’s accounts, paying himself £53,000 over the course of a year in a bid to pay off his gambling debts.
The family scrambled to find out what was happening but with no information left by David, son Adam described the situation as a "nightmare", which involved having to piece together the mess they had been left in, as well as sorting out the family finances.
David had left behind almost £500,000 of debt through loans, remortgaging of the house, late bills, credit cards and payday loans. He had been gambling away the family’s money for over 30 years.
Safer Online Gambling Group
After his release from prison, David and Adam set about turning the nightmare experience into something positive.
They set up the charity Safer Online Gambling Group, which has the support of the NHS, politicians and leading betting and gaming companies.
Adam Bradford and David Bradford, of the Safer Online Gambling Group
The campaign raises awareness of the problems of gambling addiction, helps protect children from the risks and has led to an increase in the level of NHS support for gambling addicts.
Adam said, “We’re not about mud-slinging or aggressively trying to ban gambling.
“We have to find a way to live with the addiction and that’s what our part in this documentary shows – how a lack of support for gambling addicts in this country can tear through families and communities.
“Our work is all about sitting down with all parties and finding a solution which will both prevent addiction escalating and give much needed help to addicts. We’re pleased to do that in collaboration with industry, government and addicts themselves.
“My dad has bravely given all access to Channel 5’s crew to show others what life is like in the grip of this serious mental health issue and I hope it focuses people’s minds on what is really important in the debate on gambling addiction.”
Channel 5’s Robbing Your Relatives programme will be broadcast on Wednesday 20 November 2019 at 10pm