Study Links Gambling and Crime
NZ Herald Sunday October 22, 2000
Researchers have found a clear link between problem gambling and
criminal behaviour. In a survey of 100 "newly received"
prisoners, 24 per cent scored within the range classified as
probable pathological gamblers.
That is eight times more than a sample of the general adult
population in 1992, and 24 times higher than the 1 per cent
lifetime pathological gambling rate found in the most recent
Auckland University researchers Robert Brown, Peter Adams and Sean
Sullivan, all from the department of behavioural sciences, said
more than 40 per cent of the inmates identified as pathological
gamblers reported a connection between gambling and their
"One pathological gambler stated that all his gambling was
done with stolen money.
"Another said he stole to keep his gambling 'solvent.'
"Yet another acknowledged that when he ran out of money
needed for 'chasing' his losses, he would commit offences to get
Dr Brown said the finding that one in four inmates had a serious
gambling problem had important implications both for prison
administrators and the continued growth of gambling in New
"There are over 15,000 persons being imprisoned in New
Zealand each year. If 24 per cent, or 3600, are probable
pathological gamblers, the Department of Corrections has an
opportunity and a responsibility to assist these individuals while
in prison," the researchers said.
"Clearly, there is an opportunity here to reduce reoffending."
The authors of the study recommended that prisoners be routinely
screened for gambling problems and those scoring positively be
The study was completed by the three university medical school
staff and researchers from the department, following a number of
overseas studies in the past two decades that had reported a high
incidence of criminal convictions among pathological and problem
Gambling had experienced unprecedented growth in New Zealand
during the past decade, with Government figures indicating that
industry turnover had risen from $1 billion in 1987 to $8 billion
last year, said the university researchers.
That growth had resulted in financial, health and social problems
for some gamblers and an increased prevalence of problem and
The 1988 legalising of electronic gaming machines had been
particularly influential, with 75.2 per cent of problem gamblers
who sought treatment reporting that the machines were their
primary mode of gambling, the group said.
Maori were disproportionately represented among the pathological
gamblers in prison. They were likely to have committed property
offences to obtain money for
More than 80 per cent of the pathological gambling inmates in the
study considered themselves to have either an alcohol or drug
Disturbingly," several inmates said they favoured armed
robberies because they provided bigger returns.
The researchers said they understood the Corrections Department
was considering screening all new inmates for gambling problems as
part of its assessment process.
"A brief problem gambling screen has been validated for the
New Zealand prison environment as part of this research, and this
instrument, together with the experience and resources of the
Compulsive Gambling Society of NZ, are available to the department
to help address this growing problem," said
The Government has ordered a review of gaming laws with hopes to
have new legislation drafted by 2002. And the Gaming Law Reform
Bill, introduced under the previous Government,
will be considered by Parliament soon.