Luke Ashton inquest: coroner critical of Betfair role

Luke Ashton had suffered problems with gambling prior to the pandemic. Image: Annie Ashton
Luke Ashton had suffered problems with gambling prior to the pandemic. Image: Annie Ashton

The inquest into the death of print worker Luke Ashton has concluded that a gambling disorder contributed to his death by suicide, and there had been a lack of meaningful interaction or intervention from gambling operator Betfair.

Ashton’s wife Annie Ashton was represented by solicitors Leigh Day at the inquest, which concluded yesterday (29 June).

In a statement Leigh Day said that it was believed to be the first time that this verdict had been recorded in an inquest.

Area Coroner Ivan Cartwright will also be making a Prevention of Future Deaths report.

This will include his concerns about a lack of meaningful interaction or intervention in Luke’s gambling by the gambling operator Betfair, which is owned by Flutter UK & Ireland.

Luke Ashton was from Leicester and had been working as a print finisher at local business Greenshires Group for nearly a decade.

He had suffered longstanding problems with gambling.

Ashton was on furlough when he took his own life on 22 April 2021, aged 40.

“He picked up some casual work as a delivery driver during this period. To Annie, and the rest of Luke’s family and friends, there were no signs that Luke had started gambling again,” Leigh Day noted.

Professor David Forrest, an expert in interpreting gambling records, explained that Ashton’s gambling had shown significant signs of potential gambling harm in 2019 and 2020, but that indicators of risk increased dramatically in early 2021, when the amounts of time and money which Luke spent gambling, and the intensity of his betting increased significantly. 

The inquest heard he had lost £5,000 in the month before his death and was sometimes placing more than 100 online bets a day.

During the same period, Luke was rewarded by Betfair for his increased betting activity in that he was able to claim an increased free bet and enter a promotion that incentivised further gambling.

Betfair was named as an ‘Interested Person’ in the inquest. This is understood to be the first time a gambling company has been formally involved in an inquest in this way.

After the inquest, Annie Ashton said: “The coroner’s conclusion confirms what I have always believed that gambling caused Luke’s death. The recording, for the first time ever, of gambling disorder as the cause of Luke’s death is very welcome and vindicates what I have argued all along, that gambling is destructive, destroys families and causes suicide. 

“My hope is that all gambling companies will take note of today’s strong conclusion and will urgently adjust their practices to provide proper interactions or intervention so a larger number of people to prevent further harms and deaths caused by gambling. It is clear to me that Betfair’s categorisation of Luke as ‘low risk’ was not fit for purpose and that their assessment of risk does not have the safety of their customers in mind.

“For us it doesn’t change the fact that Luke is not with us but we are pleased that the coroner agrees that measures should be put in place to prevent other families going through what we have. 

“Luke was a bright, happy and bubbly person, who easily made friends. At work, he was a highly respected colleague who had many admirers. He wanted nothing more than the simple things in life, to be a father and a husband. As a husband and a father, Luke was nothing short of supportive and proud. He was a real rock to us all, but in reality, he masked his own pain, to protect us from what he was going through.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, she said: "I hope that lessons are learned. I hope the government are able to look at yesterday's conclusion and start regulating the gambling industry the way it should be."

In a statement, Flutter UK & Ireland chief executive Ian Brown said: “We wish to reiterate our sincere condolences to Mrs Ashton and her family. We are truly sorry for their loss.

“Flutter UKI is committed to doing the right thing and creating an environment for customers to enjoy our products in a safe and sustainable way. Over the past three years we have made significant changes to our controls, including mandatory deposit limits for customers who return to our sites after a period of self-exclusion.

“We hold ourselves to the absolute highest standards in the industry and we will, of course, incorporate additional learnings from this tragic case into our systems and processes.”

The firm said that a customer with Luke Ashton’s circumstances would be unable to repeat the same betting patterns now, due to specific improvements that have been made since early 2021. It has invested £67m in its ‘Safer Gambling’ programme in the last three years and has more than doubled the size of its Safer Gambling operational teams to 190 across its offices in Leeds and Dublin.

Flutter UK & Ireland had sales of £2.1bn last year and an average of 3.7m monthly players across its sports betting and gaming brands, and shops.

Samaritans offers support for people who are struggling and may be experiencing suicidal thoughts – day or night, 365 days a year. Call for free on 116 123, email, or visit

The Gambling Commission has links to organisations that can help with gambling issues and addiction.