Man who racked up £500,000 in gambling debts sets up service to help addicts

David Bradford, 64, spent years living a secret double life.

On April 11, 2014, everything came crashing down when, on his wife’s birthday, father-of-three David was jailed for fraud.

He had hidden his problem gambling from his family, even as he went to court, stole £50,000 from his employers, racking up loans and £500,000 of debt, and remortgaging the home.

His wife, Denise, and three sons Alex, Ryan, and Adam, found out what was going on thanks to a solicitor ringing them up to say David had been jailed at Mold Crown Court.

David, who lost his £70,000-a-year job as a finance controller, went on to serve eight months before his release from HMP Altcourse in Liverpool in November.

When he came out of prison, the dad knew he wanted to make a difference.

He and his son Adam, 28, spent two years developing the BetProtect app, to help people gamble sensibly and prevent other gambling addicts from having their lives torn apart.

Adam said: ‘This is a new lease of life for Dad and a pathway to redemption.

‘Even the last seven years since Dad came out of jail has been very difficult for our family, but the terrible impact on us has been the inspiration for our work with the industry to provide an extra layer of support for those at risk.

‘Dad said “I really want to try and do something to prevent people’s descent into addiction”.

‘This will be his lifelong job now – to make a difference and turning our negative experiences into something positive for others.

‘The aim with the app is for lots of help to come up on gamblers’ screens to educate them early before they need treatment and run up huge debts or in some cases take their own lives.

‘They can hear counsellors’ advice anonymously and get lots of information without having to arrange to go to counselling sessions.

‘Dad says if it had been around for him, it could well have saved him. He actually never thought he had a problem with his gambling and just thought he was a bit useless with money.

‘He even had a bet the day of his court case! He only realised he had a problem when the judge told him.’

Along with the app, the duo have set up a service called the Safer Online Gambling Group.

The app aims to be a way to reach gambling addicts when they are most at risk, giving them ‘take a break’ information so they can pause and get help.

When a gambler seems to be at risk, the app offers them information, videos, podcasts, and digital tools such as a diary, with advice from specialist therapists, counsellors, and others who have suffered as a result of gambling.

It also links to a helpline and clinics.

The father and son are keen to share their story to raise awareness of just how severely a gambling addiction can affect your life.

Adam said: ‘When dad came out of jail he struggled to find work. At one point, he took on freelance delivery driving 100 hours a week to make ends meet, and he has tried to make amends with those he let down.

‘While he was in prison, I had to unravel his debts and make a plan to keep the house which we are still paying off.

‘Two days after he was jailed we got a quick 30 second phone call – all he was allowed – after he’d been on the front of the local paper. He was really apologetic, but a shadow of himself.

‘I will never forget my mum didn’t want to speak to him and handed the phone to me. All I said was, “What’s the password to your email?” and “Where are all the bills kept and what happens next?” because I had to sort out the huge mess he’d left us with.

‘Mum would visit him in jail, but a lot of the time she was very angry with him. The future she thought she was going to have was suddenly destroyed.

‘She felt betrayed, but we have learned it’s not betrayal – he just wanted to do what was best for his family, but when his debts mounted he tried to recover the money for us and lost more.

‘Now our mental health and struggles have been the collateral damage.

‘And this is why we are all working so hard to build this safety net to catch and save others.’

Ryan added: ‘Each day after Dad was jailed was spent wondering how we would cover the mortgage and hold off debt collectors. Each day was spent worrying about living on the streets due to the threat of homelessness.

‘Each day was a horrendous new experience that led to personal depression of my own, followed by countless sleepless nights, arguments and so much stress.’

David believes that had the app existed when he was at his lowest point, he might not have ended up in prison.

‘As I never believed I had a gambling problem I never sought help in any form,’ said the dad. ‘On reflection, I needed intervention from a trusted source.’

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