Gambling and Crime Linked In UK Study, but Regulators Find Survey Flaws

Posted on: September 26, 2022, 01:27h. 

Last updated on: September 27, 2022, 02:55h.

A new UK study is examining the relationship between gambling and crime. The results state that increased gambling leads to increased crime, but those results may be biased.

Slot machines
A row of slot machines waits for gamblers to sit down and take a spin. New reports in the UK try to link gambling with an increase in crime. (Image: Unsplash)

Will Grimond, a data reporter using information from the Howard League, a charity which seeks penal reform in the UK, published a series of articles across regional news outlets Monday, including in the Liverpool World, Sussex Express, and London World.

In the articles, Grimond stated that problem gambling “has been linked to a range of crimes, such as theft, assault, and criminal damage,” citing data acquired from the Howard League. He also quotes UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) data showing there were 13.4 million gamblers last year, 1.3 million more than a year earlier.

The UKGC has found that problem gambling is on the decline, even with an increase in gambling.

Report Findings

Grimond’s articles examine the crime rates in cities across the UK. In each article, Grimond states the number of gambling-related crimes in the surrounding area over the past two years. This data comes from the Howard League. It compiled the information by asking police forces how many crimes were tagged with the word “gambling” during this time.

Liverpool saw 52 gambling-related crimes in 2019 and 2020. Of these, 24 were related to violence against a person, according to Grimond’s reports in the Liverpool World. In Manchester World, Grimond reports 100 gambling-related crimes. Avon and Somerset Constabulary saw 65 gambling-related crimes, according to Bristol World.

Dominique Webb, head of programs at the gambling support charity Gamcare, said the link between gambling-related harms and crime is “increasingly clear.”

Part of the problem and the increase in crime is from a lack of action to screen for problem gambling, Grimond said, quoting the Howard League.

Four in 10 forces aren’t taking enough action on the impacts of gambling, according to the Howard League. Two in 10 routinely screen those in custody on their gambling habits.

Last September, Public Health England estimated over 2.2 million people could be classed as problem gamblers or were at risk of addiction.

Past Survey Findings

Several recent studies take an opposing view to Grimond’s reporting. The UK’s Office for National Statistics reports that total crime was up 14% last year compared to 2019. The biggest increase was in cybercrime and fraud, not violent crimes. The study shows that the incidents of violent crime decreased by 27%.

A study from 2019, “Crime and Gambling Disorders: A Systematic Review,” explores the factors that lead to crimes committed by problem gamblers. The study concluded that the links between problem gambling and violent crime remain unclear. Instead, understanding gambling-related crimes requires a case-by-case review. Larger trends don’t provide the necessary fine details.

The UK has one of the largest gambling markets in the world. Problem gambling in the country has dropped from 0.4% in 2020 to 0.2% in 2021, according to reports from the UKGC.