An academic study has practically exposed “a dearth of knowledge worldwide about the links between crime and problem gambling,” calling for reform to resolve a number of concerns.
The Commission, set up by the Howard League for Penal Reform, began its review in 2019, finding that while millions of people are affected by gambling either directly or indirectly, fewer than 50 peer-reviewed papers appear to have been published in the last 25 years that specifically address the links between problem gambling and crime.
In addition , the Commission plans to perform its own work in three areas: the first project will investigate the prevalence of gambling-related crime; the second will take into account the lived experience of people caught up in the system; and the third will explore the awareness of the problem among sentencer.
The Commission, led by Lord Goldsmith QC, aims to examine the connection between problem gambling and crime, what effect they have on neighbourhoods and broader society and what measures can be taken to minimise crime and make people safer.
Lord Goldsmith QC, commented: “Concern about harmful gambling activity has been growing for some time, but this is the first commission to focus specifically on the relationship between problem gambling and crime.
“From people getting into debt and defrauding family members or employers, to domestic violence and other crimes relating to gambling-related stress, we know anecdotally that police stations, courts and prisons see significant numbers of cases – but only a handful of academic studies have looked at this across the globe.
“The criminal justice system itself does very little work to capture the scale of the challenge and even less in terms of offering interventions like those we see for alcohol or drug problems. This has to change and our Commission can play a key role in improving the response to disordered gambling and crime.”
The literature review includes regions like Australasia, the United States , Canada, Germany, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, emphasising that “while the overall quantity of research is not huge, there is consistency in findings across jurisdictions.”
Researchers have commented that they have “found high prevalence rates of people committing crimes to fund their gambling. A wide variety of crimes are committed as a result of gambling addiction; not just ‘white collar’ crimes such as theft and fraud, but also offences that occur in public spaces such as street robbery.
“There is significant evidence of domestic abuse and child neglect linked to problem and pathological gambling.”