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The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster has joined forces with a former professional footballer and recovering gambling addict to call on payday lenders to stop lending money to people with a gambling addiction.

PCC Simon Foster, alongside his Assistant PCC Tom McNeil, and Coventry born footballer Tony Kelly, who used to play for Stoke City and Bristol City, all agree that lending gambling addicts big sums of money at extortionate interest rates is simply exploiting vulnerable people and forcing them into further debt and potentially fuelling crime.

Studies have concluded that 1 in 3 prisoners are problem or pathological gamblers. Half of those, on average, were found to have committed crimes to fund their gambling addiction.

Tony lost £300,000 during a nine-year period and during that time he was allowed to borrow from payday lenders, despite already being in significant debt.

Now Tony Kelly, Simon Foster and Tom McNeil are coming together to campaign for change.

They have set out three key demands for the banking sector and the police to reduce gambling related crime:

  1. Lenders must make sure loan applicants are not showing signs of problem gambling, such as, repeat and excessive expenditure on gambling websites. This can be tracked during the credit checks.
  2. Lenders must signpost people they think are problem gamblers to support services.
  3. Police must consistently screen for problem gambling when a person is arrested so they can be referred to support services. 

It’s estimated that 0.7 percent of the adult population in the West Midlands have a problem with gambling. That’s around sixteen thousand people.

The harms associated with problem gambling stretch well beyond the individual who places the bets. It’s estimated that for every problem gambler between 6 and 10 other people are affected.

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, said: “We need to recognise that problem gambling is fuelling crime.

“That’s why we are calling on the banking sector to act now.

“Payday lenders, especially, must stop lending cash to people who have a gambling addiction that has crippled their finances. This practice is fuelling crime and costing our region millions of pounds.

“We will also be expecting West Midlands Police to screen everyone they suspect are stealing to fund a gambling addiction, so those individuals can be dealt with robustly, but also treated for their addiction.”

In the West Midlands there were 1,349 gambling related offences recorded by police between January 2019 and February 2023. This figure is thought to be significantly higher in reality. It’s thought problem gambling costs the country £167 million every year.

Former footballer and CEO of the charity red card gambling support project, Tony Kelly, said: “I find it astonishing that banks and payday lenders kept lending thousands and thousands of pounds to me despite knowing that I was gambling compulsively.

“I had hundreds of debit card transactions to gambling companies on my credit record. It’s immoral to continue to lend to people in that situation who are struggling to control their behaviour.

“We need banks and payday lenders to step up and intervene at an early stage if they see large sums frequently being used on gambling websites, after all, they have a duty of care for their customers.”

Whist the West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Tom McNeil, said: “We must put a stop to payday lenders ignoring problem gamblers and lending money at extortionate interest rates.

“I fear this irresponsible behaviour is fuelling crime and it is high time the industry took more responsibility for its actions.”

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