It read: “The biggest regret I have is starting to play fruit machines as a teenager which led to a gambling addiction which I was unable to control.”
Alan’s heartbreaking case highlights the devastating impact gambling is having on Britain.
A Sunday People probe has discovered a boom in bookies in some areas, with nine on a single street.
We also found police callouts to tackle threats and violence to staff, as well as damage to betting machines, have rocketed.
The problem is so bad that some have had to employ bouncers on their door.
But the truly corrosive consequences of gambling come as no surprise to Anne, a retired teacher.
She spoke bravely about her tragic son, telling how Alan’s habit had cost him his relationship with the mother of his two daughters and his car salesman’s job.
Anne said: “It is such a sad story and I want to share it so other people like Alan realise they can get help.
“He was a lovely man with so much to live for, with lots of friends but gambling took hold and came before everything.
“Alan came to me and his dad time and time again to borrow money. We’d help him, which I now know was wrong.”
She said Alan, the youngest of three, first played a fruit machine at 12 and when he inherited £300 from his gran six years later gambled it all away.
She said: “He said he’d spent it. Looking back, I can see he had a problem. He started work but no amount of money he earned was ever enough. He was always wanting money to pay bills and it snowballed out of control.
"I know if he had a win, he’d put it straight back in a machine or on a horse.
“Then Alan would come to us begging for help. He’d promise not to gamble and to pay off his debts with the money we gave him. He’d play on machines and bet on football, horses and snooker.”
Alan’s debts soared and he had to sell his home. A cafe he opened went bust as he lost the takings gambing. In June 2010 he was found hanged when his landlord went to collect the rent.
Now Anne wants young people to be aware of how dangerous even a seemingly harmless fruit machine can be. She said: “We hear so much about people being addicted to drink and drugs. But with gambling, it’s like it’s just a bit of fun.”
She said adverts for free bets make gambling look attractive.
“As a mother who has lost her son and seen his children’s lives torn apart, I want to tell people how it really is when it takes hold. It’s not fun. Gambling’s not something anyone can deal with on their own.
“It is time the Government realised the devastating effect it has. It’s mentally crippling for the addict which can cause depression and mental health issues. It can lead to theft, fraud and violence which impacts on the police.
“I want to see it treated in the same way substance addictions are, where people have access to help. Alan was a lovely young man and the church was packed at his funeral. His death has left a huge void in our lives.”
Shocked by the lack of health support in her home town of Doncaster, South Yorks, Anne launched a gambling awareness week and enlisted the help of local MP Rosie Winterton who raised Alan’s case in Parliament.
Research shows Doncaster has one of the highest concentrations of bookies. Others in the top ten are London’s Chinatown; Newcastle; Rotherham, South Yorks; Bradford, West Yorks; Newmarket, Suffolk; Wembley, North West London; Ilford, Essex; Liverpool and Peterborough, Cambs.
Figures reveal the total number of bookies have fallen from the 70s peak of 144,000 to 9,000.
Yet the numbers taking over closed high street shops, in the wake of Labour’s relaxing of gambling laws, rose 43 per cent between 2014 and 2012.
London has seen an 80 per cent rise in the number of high street bookies.
Last week the Sunday People visited Green Street, near Premier League team West Ham United’s East London ground – where there are nine bookies, one every 200 yards.
There are three branches of Paddy Power, three Ladbrokes, two William Hill and a Jennings Bet.
One local cafe worker said: “There are far too many – and they seem to attract all sorts of undesirables.”
A mum shopping said: “You see young lads just pumping their wages into the machines in those shops, it just can’t be right.
“Do we really need to have so many? Something should be done to stop it.”
Meanwhile Gambling Commission figures, released under Freedom of Information rules, show police were called to betting shops 9,083 times from January to September 2014 – 1,647 more often than in that period of the previous year.
The situation is so bad in some areas that door staff are being drafted in.
Areas using security include a Coral branch in St Paul’s, Bristol.
One regular there said: “It can get a bit dicey.”
The Sunday People in November found more than a third of betting shops in the country are in the poorest areas.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling opposes the expansion of fixed odds betting machines.
The campaign’s Adrian Parkinson said: “We’ve got a major problem on our high streets and one that is sucking billions from deprived communities across the country.
“Betting shops and their high-stake casino machines are swarming around the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged.
"There’s no economic benefit to communities plagued by these machines only the misery of huge losses and the despair of problem gambling.
"It is a sad reflection of this Tory Government’s attitude toward those in more deprived communities that they refuse to act against these highly addictive machines.
“Instead they are leaving the bookmakers to continue preying on the most vulnerable.”
How we've campaigned to end gambling scandal
The Sunday People was the first newspaper to launch a national campaign against hated fixed odds betting terminals.
Our Stop The FOBTs purge launched in 2013 called for an upper limit of £2 per spin on the casino machines.
We have also insisted there is only one of them per shop – down from a maximum of four.
In April we won a major victory when planning laws were changed.
It meant that bookies needed to win a planning application to open new shops in premises that previously had not been used for betting.
The switch gives local councils the chance to consider and refuse bids.
Bookmakers have also dedicated shop window advertising space to warnings about problem gambling.
If you need someone to speak to, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 08457 90 90 90 or by firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to talk to someone about a problem with gambling, you can find out more by visiting the Gamblers Anonymous website HERE