Obituary: The Rev Gordon Moody

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Gordon Moody, minister of the church: born London 5 December 1912; Secretary, Churches' Council on Gambling 1958-78; MBE 1969; married 1942 Jessica Harold (one son, one daughter); died Salcombe, Devon 30 September 1994.

GORDON MOODY devoted the best part of his life to the understanding of gambling in Britain. Yet it was chance, appropriately enough, that led him as a Methodist clergyman just out of national service to stumble into his role as a spokesman for gamblers.

After ministries in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Devon, Moody had served as an RAF chaplain in England and in Singapore. A friend then suggested he apply for the job of Secretary of the Churches' Council on Gambling. Moody was sceptical of do-gooders. And, as he said, he knew nothing at all about gambling. But that, combined with a streak of good English common sense, proved to be his strength. He took the job in 1958 and remained in it for 20 years.

Moody set himself to learn what gambling was all about - going to the dogs, talking to street bookies, enjoying the Derby. He thus made his first important discovery about gambling: it was not a vice, it was not a crime, it was not a reflection of some psychological disorder. People gambled because they enjoyed it. It was fun.

But gambling also had its downside, in the collapse of people who went too far. This led Moody to start helping gamblers in trouble and, in 1964, to his founding a British branch of the pioneer US organisation Gamblers Anonymous. GA has proved immensely valuable as a self-help body for problem gamblers. It now numbers 207 groups in England alone.

Alert, fresh-faced, energetic, like a well-scrubbed boy scout, but sympathetic and non- judgemental, Gordon Moody had a strong faith in Christian values, but he never sounded like a churchman. He had no side. He had mixed with all sorts in his service days, and 'people', he used to say, 'are people'.

Moody's great insight into gambling and what makes people gamble is a principle still overlooked by the authorities in Britain and ignored by the many new jurisdictions promoting gaming round the world today. It is that regulation of gambling should be for the benefit and protection of gamblers - not for the industry, nor to raise tax revenue, nor to fit some abstract ideal of social welfare.

Moody's influence on official thinking was reflected in the framing of the 1968 Gaming Act, which was a vast improvement on previous legislation. In recognition of this work, he was appointed MBE in 1969. He was less successful in swaying the Royal Commission on Gambling, which reported in 1978 just as he took retirement from the Churches' Council on Gambling. But he found a new vocation in his later years, in addressing the frightening problem of childhood gamblers, children addicted to slot machines. Unlike their parents, who could in their ultimate desperation turn to GA, such children were often beyond parental control.

Moody's true memorial, however, is Gordon House, a hostel for problem gamblers in Beckenham, south London, partly funded by the Home Office and opened in 1971. The opportunity to get people off the streets and into a home environment is crucial in helping problem gamblers who want to give up.

Throughout his second career, Gordon Moody enjoyed the support of his wife, Jess, whom he married in 1942. Without her, managing the secretarial work on a shoestring, his campaign would never have prospered as it did.