The harrowing tales of cricketers past and present who have seen lives and careers torn apart by gambling addiction were enough to ‘light a fire’ under Nick Denning.

And the Professional Cricketers’ Association personal development manager has now made it his mission to help reduce gambling harm through linking up with a global cross-sport advisory board tackling the topic head-on.

The former Essex seamer counts Hampshire among the three first-class counties he assists in his PCA role and has consequently worked closely with Chris Wood, who last year opened up about the addiction which ‘consumed his life’ while he was winning multiple white-ball trophies with the club. 

Wood was the first active cricketer to speak out on the issue and Denning hailed his bravery in doing so, admitting the issue of problem gambling and addictions such as online gaming are becoming evermore prominent on his agenda.

“It’s certainly growing,” he said. “We have a number of players coming forward who are helping us with our education and helping us raise awareness.

“We think it’s one of those addictions people still aren’t quite aware of. The more we understand the behaviours around gambling and what problem gambling actually looks like, the more we can actually help tackle the problem.

“Knowing Chris [Wood] as I do, I know it [speaking out] has been a really important part of his education.

“From a player’s point of view, if they have stories from people who are relatable, they are more likely to listen, sit up and take notice, not just of themselves and their own behaviours but of people around them.”

Denning is among the founding members of the EPIC Risk Management Pro Sport Advisory Board, which has been launched as the world’s first expert panel to investigate and act upon the risk of gaming and gambling harm affecting professional sports stars or eSports players.

The global collective is made up of leading names from organisations representing professional sports players, eSports experts and gambling industry leaders, who will share best practice, highlight concerns and shape policy through their experience in gambling, gaming, eSports, integrity, athlete welfare and lived experience.

With professional athletes around four times more likely to develop a problem gambling habit than the general population, Denning believes now is the perfect time for such an initiative and highlighted testimonies from former Northamptonshire bowler Patrick Foster and EPIC CEO Paul Buck, as well as Wood, as key to his determination to get involved.

“I was keen to join the board purely because of the powerful stories I’ve heard from Chris, Paul and Patrick,” he said. “It kind of lights a fire in you.

“We know from players who have had problems that they go on to the pitch and they almost forget they are playing a sport.

“All they can think of is coming off the pitch so they can check their phone and find out the result of their last bet, which is a huge problem.

“Their access to it is so easy – you can get online and place a bet in 12-15 seconds, which is frightening.

“I’m so pleased to have been given the opportunity to be on this board. To work with people from sports and different industries will broaden my own horizons and I hope I can bring some experience, knowledge and passion to what the board can achieve.”

EPIC Risk Management Pro Sport Advisory Board. The world’s first panel looking into gaming and gambling harm minimisation for elite sport.