Finance director Helen Martin will move into the role of chief operating officer, taking on additional responsibilities until a new chief executive is appointed.
Willows has served as YGAM’s chief executive since 2014. He set up the charity with Anne and Keith Evans, with the three having all experienced gambling harms.
Under their leadership, the charity has emerged as a key leader in gambling harm prevention, rolling out training schemes for healthcare professionals, trade unions and parents, as well as large-scale educational programmes for young people.
Willows said it had been “a privilege” to lead YGAM for “seven incredible years”, but with it entering its third strategic cycle, the timing was right to step down.
“This is a special charity and one that has exciting plans for the future,” he said. “I will always passionately support the exceptional staff team and I look forward to seeing what they can achieve next.
“With the endless support and dedication of my co-founders Anne and Keith Evans, I have been on an extraordinary personal journey, and I feel extremely proud of what we and the staff team have achieved together.
“In 2014, I was determined to use my experiences of gambling harm to create a positive force for good and focus our efforts on evidence-led education and prevention,” he added. “We have since developed a portfolio of award-winning programmes that are now helping to safeguard young people in every region of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
Mike Wójcik, YGAM’s chair, thanked Willows for “the tremendous efforts and passion” he had devoted to the charity.
“Lee has achieved so much for this sector and has established an organisation that is making a real difference,” Wójcik said. “He leaves YGAM in the strongest position to continue our progress and achieve our mission to educate and safeguard future generations.”
YGAM added that its independent board of trustees was to announce further details on the recruitment process for Willows’ successor in due course.