Updated: Apr 15
A third of the prison population is estimated to have suffered significant gambling harm in the past 12-months before incarceration.
Between 4%-9% of all crime is a gambling-related crime committed by problem gamblers; leading to an estimated cost of between £136m-£306m (does not include other costs involved with criminal justice, nor does it consider costs of crime on a private basis)
In 2016, the IPPR's Cards on the table report estimated that problem gambling in Great Britain led to a cost of incarcerations of between £40 million - £190 million.
There is strong evidence that gambling-related crime typically takes the form of income-generating, non-violent offences.
More recent research has indicated that gambling harm has provided evidence on violent crimes.
We reviewed the literature to provide an overview of the evidence on the links between gambling-harm and crime
Prevalence of gambling-harm from own gambling in the past 12 months
Amongst the prison population (n=1057) in England and Scotland 2016 in the past year:
11.2% suffered low-risk gambling harm
11.0% suffered moderate-risk gambling harm
12.1% suffered problem-gambling harm
Overall, 34.3% of the prison population suffered gambling harm due to their own gambling in the past year.
England 2012 (201 males and 222 females):
19.4%, 17.4%, 10.4% (Overall: 47.2%) of males suffered low-risk, moderate-risk, problem-gambler harm, respectively
10.8%, 12.2%, 5.9% (Overall: 28.9%) of females suffered low-risk, moderate-risk, problem-gambler harm, respectively
13.4% of males and 7.2% of females admitted to committing a crime to finance gambling or pay off debts
TVRGC - Interim Findings (792 males and 156 females)
14%, 10%, 14% (Overall: 38%) of males suffered low-risk, moderate-risk, problem-gambler harm, respectively
10%, 8%, 6% (Overall: 24%) of females suffered low-risk, moderate-risk, problem-gambler harm, respectively
Prevalence of lifetime problem gambling amongst prison populations
Across 8 studies across the United States (4), New Zealand (2), Australia (2), the combined prevalence of lifetime severe gambling-harm (problem gambling & pathological gambling) averaged at 46.7%.
A review found that approximately half of the crime committed by problem/pathological gamblers was gambling-related; this is in line with studies (presented in the same review) that reflect between 4%-9% of all crime is a gambling-related crime committed by problem gamblers.
TVRGC - Interim Findings
7.3% of men but less than 1% of women considered their current offence was linked to gambling
5.4% of males and 3% of females considered that their current offence was gambling-related
11% of men linked gambling to past offending, as did 12% of female gamblers
The estimated cost of gambling-related crime
In 2018-19, £3.4bn was spent on incarcerations in the UK. Applying the rates of 4%-9% of all crimes being gambling-related, we estimate that between £136m-£306m are spent on gambling-related incarcerations.
Estimated costs of £136m-£306m do not include other costs involved with criminal justice, nor does it consider costs of crime on a private basis.
NICE guidelines on "Mental health of adults in contact with the criminal justice" at first-stage health assessment include alcohol and substance misuse but omit gambling
Betting shops in Great Britain are overwhelmingly in areas of deprivation by crime.
A systematic review in 2018 concluded that "comprehensive consideration of individual histories will permit appraisal of the likely cause for their criminal activity, and a greater focus on rehabilitation, rather than strict incarceration, of gambling-related offenders."
There is strong evidence for routine screening, which should cover affected other harm and lifetime prevalence of problem gambler harm (gambling is currently omitted, whereas alcohol and substance misuse are included in the first-stage prison health assessment)
There is a need and an established precedent (through drug and alcohol misuse management) for successful education and treatment of gambling harm at correctional facilities to reduce mental health issues and promote rehabilitation.
Systematic review of 12 studies published in 2019