By Rebecca Husselbee
A family left devastated by their dad’s £60K hidden gambling addiction – which led to him being jailed – have been hounded by trolls who sent thousands of messages calling them obese and saying they wanted them dead.
Adam Bradford, 25, and his family knew nothing of dad David’s hidden gambling addiction until he never returned home from a secret court hearing his family knew nothing about.
David’s crippling addiction led to endless online betting and playing on fixed odds betting terminal [FOBT] machines had seen him secretly remortgage their family home to feed his habit and steal £53,000 from his employers.
Since the dad-of-three, from Mosborough, Sheffield, received a two-year prison sentence in April 2014 for fraud by dishonestly obtaining money and now Adam and his family have been campaigning to change the UK’s gambling legislation – which currently means that anyone can put up to £100 every 20 seconds into an FOBT.
They also want to tackle persistent advertising by companies to lure in new betters – but Adam said they have received more than 5,000 messages of abuse since the start of the year from gamblers who believe they are out to kill the trade.
Adam, who runs his own business working with young people, said: “Running any campaign means you will be met with good and bad reactions, we expected that.
“People think we are prohibitionists, trying to take people’s leisure away, get rid of peoples jobs and stop the industry.
“It’s not this at all – but the gambling industry are profiting from peoples addiction.
“A lot of the abuse we get is from behind a screen. They say they want us dead and comment on my dad’s weight.
“Since May alone, we have had over 1,000 abusive messages.
“Every time we try to do an interview, people come out of the woodwork and it doesn’t help when dad is still trying to recover. People telling us we deserve everything we get, even phone calls with nasty messages.
“It takes its toll. The weight of the campaign the feeling that your every move is being watched but we need to carry on.”
David addiction began over 30 years ago when he began using fixed odds betting terminal when visiting the pub, however, it escalated when he began using online fruit machines hoping that one big win would fix his financial worries.
The self-employed courier, believing he had financial problems and not a gambling addiction, began taking out loans and credit cards to fund the habit, having up to eight loans at one time.
After it was discovered David had stolen £53,000 from his employers he attended a court hearing in secret and was handed a two-year prison sentence leaving his family in the dark when he never came home.
But after serving eight months of his sentence, David was released on good behaviour and returned to the family home.
David said: “I felt I had financial problems and not a gambling problem and that by winning it would save me.
“I just thought I was spending more than I earnt. It wasn’t until I went into prison that I realised that I had destroyed everything that’s important to me.
“Pride meant I was keeping my money worries away from the family and I didn’t want the aggravation that came with it.
“When I was taking the money I wasn’t even hiding it, looking back it was almost like I wanted to get caught so that I could get help.”
After the family struggled to come to terms with the secrets their father had been hiding, Adam fronted a campaign in June 2014 to get the government to look at its ‘outdated’ gambling legislation and excessive advertising.
The campaign was successful and it was agreed that users of fixed odds betting terminals could only put £2 into the machine every 20 seconds rather than the £100, but it could take up to two years for the law to come into practice.
Since the law change in May this year, the family has been plagued by online trolls but have vowed to continue in the hopes of helping other families affected by gambling addiction.
And David and Adam have vowed to will continue in their efforts to change how the industry encourages people to gamble and hope to implement the reduced stakes for FOBT a lot quicker than the two years set out by the government.
David said: “In the last ten years my gambling was mainly online and now it seems ironic that the online abuse has come back on me.
“With online betting, you can lose even more money and the excessive amount of adverts that young people see never mention anything about losing.
“Ultimately you will always lose and people cannot question what you’re up to like they would if you were stood at a machine for hours.
“These trolls are childish and uninformed and will not change us. We have lived through this and it is embedded so painfully.”