A report from RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) has found that Gambling and offending may be intersecting in more ways than the community realises.
Funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, the report Compulsion, convergence or crime? Contact with the criminal justice system as a form of gambling harm suggests that multiple pathways lead people between gambling and offending and that gambling is a ‘sleeper’ issue with which the criminal justice system needs to grapple.
Rob Hulls, Director, CIJ said: “We hear stories of people offending to pay for their gambling habits but our research suggests that gambling is often ‘in the mix’ of offenders’ lives in multiple other ways.”
What’s more, the report finds that gambling may be keeping offenders trapped in a cycle of crime; or alternatively propelling victims of family violence or people from disadvantaged communities into offending.
Elena Campbell, report author and CIJ Associate Director, said: “Gambling and vulnerability can be a potent mix.
“The majority of people in contact with the criminal justice system are profoundly disadvantaged, and many people with gambling problems have pre-existing vulnerabilities.
“When these things converge, the harm can be seriously compounded.”
The report argues that offending should be included in the understanding of gambling harm now increasingly favoured by policy makers.
It also claims that, until now, the criminal justice system has not effectively engaged with the emerging science about gambling addiction.
“Our analysis suggests that there is still a stigma around gambling when it presents in court”, Campbell said.
“There is also an assumption that gambling addiction is not the same as other forms of addiction, despite emerging science which suggests that these are closer than we might expect.”
The report calls for legal and clinical understanding to be brought closer together and for more data to be gathered by the criminal justice system.
“If lawyers and courts begin to ask more questions, and if we see contact with the criminal justice system as an opportunity for positive intervention, we can start to repair and divert gambling related harm, rather entrench it,” Hulls said.