A father of three who stole £50,000 from his boss when his gambling addiction plunged him into debt has launched a project to help other gambling addicts.
David Bradford of Sheffield was convicted of fraud on his wife Denise’s birthday in April 2014 – after hiding his addiction and a £500,000 family debt.
The accountant even hid his own trial from his wife and children, pretending to be just a witness. When he was convicted and convicted, his web of lies was finally unraveled.
Gripped by a crippling gambling addiction, David had stolen from his employers, taken out loans, credit card and bank debt, and re-mortgaged his house.
Denise, 69, and their sons Adam, Alex and Ryan were shocked to learn that he was in jail – they learned that via a call from a lawyer.
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Their beloved husband and father spent eight months in prison at Liverpool’s HMP Altcourse, losing his £70k-a-year job as a financial controller.
While he was inside, eldest son Adam, now 28, began campaigning for gambling industry reforms to help prevent addiction.
When David was released, he started working with his son.
Adam said: “When Dad got out of jail, he struggled to find work. At one point he took on freelance delivery drivers and drove 100 hours a week to make ends meet, and he’s tried to make amends with those who he disappointed.
“While he was in prison, I had to unravel his debts and make a plan to keep the house we are still paying off.
“Two days after he was in jail, we got a quick 30 second phone call – all he was allowed to do – after he was on the front cover of the local paper. He really apologized, but a shadow of himself.
“I’ll never forget my mom didn’t want to talk to him and handed the phone to me. I just said, ‘What’s your email password?’ and ‘Where are all the bills kept and what happens after that?’ because I had to fix the huge mess he left us.”
Adam said that his mother visited David in prison but was angry with him for a long time. But as time went on, she learned to forgive.
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“She felt betrayed, but we learned it’s not a betrayal — he just wanted to do what was best for his family, but when his debts piled up, he tried to get the money back for us and lost more.”
Since David’s release, he and Adam have devoted their time to helping others fight gambling addiction and founded the Safer Online Gambling Group. They were also part of the campaign to reduce the maximum bet on fixed odds slots from £100 to £2.
Over the past two years, the couple, along with Ryan, now 25, have BetProtect app that helps people gamble wisely.
Their goal is to protect the estimated 430,000 people who are addicted to gambling – and the other two million who are considered ‘at risk’ for addiction.
Adam said: “Even the last seven years since Dad got out of prison has been very difficult for our family, but the horrendous impact on us has inspired our work with the industry to provide an extra layer of support for those at risk.
“Dad said, ‘I really want to try to do something to prevent people from sliding into addiction’. This will now be his lifelong task – to make a difference and turn our negative experiences into something positive for others .
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“The purpose of the app is to have a lot of help on the screen of gamblers to educate them early before they need treatment and run up huge debts or in some cases commit suicide.
“They can hear counselors’ advice anonymously and get a lot of information without having to go to counseling sessions.”
According to Adam, his father thinks that if such an app was around when he went into a tailspin, it might have saved him.
He never really thought he had a problem with his gambling and just thought he was a bit useless with money.
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“He even had a bet on the day of his trial! He didn’t realize he had a problem until the judge told him.”
The family wants the app to counteract the “shame and stigma” of admitting there is a problem.
It includes “pause” information that gives gamblers some breathing room to think – with videos, podcasts and advice from counselors and therapists. It also directs people to clinics and a helpline that they can consult.
The family is working with major gambling operators on the app – hoping to get even more on board.
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The timing couldn’t have been better – as the Gambling Commission says there has been a surge in gambling since the initial lockdown last year, with 1 in 500 adults saying they had first started gambling.
David’s youngest son Ryan said: “Every day after Dad was in jail, we wondered how we would cover the mortgage and keep off debt collectors. Every day was spent worrying about life on the streets due to the threat of homelessness.
“Every day was a terrible new experience that led to my personal depression, followed by countless sleepless nights, arguments and so much stress.
“Nevertheless, this has led all of us to completely change this sense of being stranded that is set in motion when a gambler loses control by creating BetProtect.”
Reflecting on his own addiction issues, David said, “Since I never believed I had a gambling problem, I never sought help in any form. On reflection, I needed intervention from a trusted source.
“BetProtect is now available to encourage a pause for thought.”