Dozens of gambling-related crimes over two years in Merseyside

Merseyside Police recorded dozens of crimes related to gambling over two years, figures show.

Merseyside Police recorded dozens of crimes related to gambling over two years, figures show.

Online gambling has boomed over the past few years – the Gambling Commission estimates there were 13.4 million players across Great Britain in 2021, up from 12.1 million the year before.

While the vast majority of players do so responsibly, 'problem' gambling has been linked to a range of crimes such as theft, assault and criminal damage, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests by penal reform charity the Howard League.

Most Popular

502 Bad Gateway

502 Bad Gateway

They show 52 gambling-related crimes were logged by Merseyside Police in 2019 and 2020.

The charity asked forces across England how many crimes were tagged with the word 'gambling' over this period.

Lord Goldsmith QC, the chair of the Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms, said that despite a mounting body of evidence linking gambling and crime, "too little is being done within the criminal justice system to address the issue".

Identifying gambling addiction, and providing sufferers with the right support and information, is crucial to mitigating the harms done by gambling, the Howard League said.

It found that Merseyside Police were among the minority of forces that routinely screens offenders on their gambling habits at the time of the FOI request in the spring of 2021.

According to the charity's report, four in 10 forces are not taking enough action on the impacts of gambling, and just two in 10 routinely screen those in custody on their gambling habits.

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

She said the charity has been training staff in the criminal justice system on how to identify those suffering from gambling addiction and direct them to treatment.

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

The most common gambling-related offence in Merseyside was violence against the person, with 24 counts across 2019 and 2020.

Of the nearly 3,000 crimes recorded by the 37 police forces which provided data across England and Wales, this was the most common type of offence, with 1,291 incidents.

This was followed by theft, with 688 incidents, and criminal damage, with 206.

Several police forces did not submit useable data, including the Met and West Midlands Police – the two largest forces in England – Cumbria, Dyfed-Powys, Hampshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire and Wiltshire.

Chief constable Steve Jupp, the National Police Chiefs' Council's lead for serious and organised crime said police forces are working with various groups to improve how the police deal with gambling.

"It is important for policing to recognise the signs early when dealing with someone through the criminal justice process so that the best support is offered to those with a gambling addiction," he said.

"We recognise there is still work to be done in this field and are gathering best practice from forces on early screening of gambling addicts, offering the right support and signpost to where they can seek further help."