UCL Faculty of Laws


Recording | Gambling Addiction, Financial Loss and Suicide: Exploring the Common Law

14 March 2023, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Dice and gambling chips

This lecture will be delivered by Dr Janet O'Sullivan, as part of the Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2022-23

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UCL Laws

Speaker: Dr Janet O'Sullivan (University of Cambridge)
Chair: Professor Dame Sarah Worthington (University of Cambridge)

About the lecture (see link to recorded lecture below)

In March 2022, a coroner described it as “abundantly clear” that gambling contributed to the suicide of a young man who was addicted to online gambling, as well as criticising the UK’s “woefully inadequate” regulatory regime, with insufficient protections to prevent others falling into addiction and inadequate provision of help for those who do.  Reform of the UK gambling regulatory regime has been promised, but delayed, many times - it is hoped that proposed reform will have been announced by the date of this lecture.  With this background, what is, or should be, the role of the common law?  One of the common law’s many strengths over the years has been its ability to respond to and provide remedies for individual harms suffered as a result of new, damaging social problems, sometimes spurring legislation.  Yet for the problem gambler and their dependents, the common law has set its face against liability.  For the Court of Appeal Calvert v William Hill Credit Ltd (2008), “Recognition of a common law duty to protect a problem gambler from self-inflicted gambling losses would involve a journey to the outermost reaches of the tort of negligence in the realm of the truly exceptional”, adding in Aryeh v Ehrentreu v IG Index Limited(2018) that “there was no reported case of the imposition of such a duty in contract”. This lecture will explore whether this stance can be justified, and ask what sorts of challenges a claimant would face in establishing a cause of action.  More fundamentally, how should the common law strike the balance between a lawful commercial activity enjoyed by many consenting adults and the protection of those whose vulnerability and addiction to gambling leads to their ruin? 

About the speaker

Dr Janet O'Sullivan is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, and is Vice-Master and Director of Studies in Law at Selwyn College, Cambridge. She gained a triple first in Law as an undergraduate in Cambridge, practised as a commercial solicitor with Slaughter and May after graduating, before returning to Cambridge to take up a Fellowship at Selwyn in 1994. She specialises in the Law of Contract and the Law of Tort, and has published extensively in these areas, in particular the field of professional negligence, as well as being the author of a successful textbook on the Law of Contract, now in its tenth edition. In 2005 she was awarded the Pilkington Teaching Prize for excellence in university teaching.  She has three adult children, one of whom has Down syndrome, and lives in North Essex.

Watch a recording of this lecture

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/eyY46ZKXVsM


About Current Legal Problems

The Current Legal Problems (CLP) lecture series and annual volume was established over fifty five years ago at the Faculty of Laws, University College London and is recognised as a major reference point for legal scholarship.

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