Gambling-related crime is harmful to the person who commits the crime. It is also results in harm to those close to them, businesses, and society. Gambling-related crime leaves an excessively large legacy of harm once the person stops gambling.
During their gambling difficulties, people tend to lose all the money they have and end up in debt. They find themselves in a desperate economic situation. Eventually they cannot see another way to get money other than through criminal activity. They may steal from friends or family or shoplift. Much of the crime people have spoken about is embezzlement from their employer or their own business. Their gambling addiction can make them think that if they get money to gamble, they will be able to pay off their debts and pay back the money they have taken.
People may have a long period of waiting for a crime to be tried in court. They may have to deal with the impact of receiving a custodial sentence. They have a criminal record. People also have to deal with feelings of shame and the stigma associated with crime. All of this can damage their relationships, family, and prospects for the long-term.
The financial harm caused by gambling means that people can be without money to live on or to buy essentials for themselves and their family. This can lead them to crimes such as shoplifting.
The shoplifting was obviously because of gambling. I never had any money. I had my kids every weekend and sometimes I would – They would be asking for McDonald’s or, I would have no money. I would be like, “We’ll go here and get something.” I used to go in and grab whatever they wanted and walk out here because they were kids, they’re not going to suspect anything, but obviously from that, I started going in myself, taking a big bag with me and taking– Well, it wasn’t really food and stuff like that. It was food now and again, but I started going different places and scanning places, looking where all the cameras were, looking if they had any alarms. Literally looked into every single detail to not get caught.
Some describe how their gambling difficulties had put them into a desparate financial situation. They have exhausted all other ways of getting money. Such as borrowing from friends and family, credit cards and payday loans. They embezzle money from their employer.
This tends to start with with small amounts of money. It is possible this embezzlement will happen more frequently, and a large sum of money will have been stolen.
People have explained how gambling addiction distorts their thinking. They think that if they keep gambling they will win, get themselves out of financial trouble and pay back the money they have taken from work.
And then yet I gambled, and I used people’s money that wasn’t mine. I was in charge of a fund for people that are buying properties from me. I’d set up my own business in Dubai, real estate business. I had agents under me, and I used money and I dipped in money and when I dipped, I just kept dipping and dipping, and it just spiralled out of control.
Committing crime can cause even more pressure and anxiety. People may get found out or they have to tell their employer or family. Their addiction can be so strong that they carry on gambling to try and cope with what has happened.
Gambling-related crime can have big knock-on effects. On people’s employment, on their relationships and their living situation. And on their mental health, in some cases leading people to the point of attempting suicide.
Where it had got so bad, I had committed fraud by abuse of position. That’s where my gambling had led me. So in the space of a week, I went from having my own place, partner, career, everything, to having to declare myself bankrupt, lost my job, got arrested, lost my partner, lost absolutely everything in the space of three days, so it was a very trying time… which did ultimately lead to attempted suicide.
Gambling-related crimes leave a large legacy of harm once the person stops gambling.
Some people have described the anxiety of going through the criminal justice system. They may never have had to deal with the criminal justice system before and do not know how it works. Even if they have confessed and provided all the evidence, they may have to wait a long time for the crime to be investigated by the police and come to court. This causes them to have sleepless nights and fears around what the outcome might be. It has an impact on their ability to rebuild their life.
It was found that I’d been fraudulent using the business’ money. There was then a period of about three or four months of nothing happening. I could say that speaking of it in that tense, there was all sorts happening. When I look at it now, I’m able to realise that I went through a terrible time then because of the not knowing what was going on, I was hearing rumours from where I worked. There was all sorts of stuff being put on social media. I hadn’t had any contact from the police. It took, I think, 12 weeks before I got any contact from them.
Those that have embezzled funds can end up with a custodial sentence, serving time in prison or on probation. That they are experiencing gambling addiction is not usually taken into account during sentencing, like it is for other addictions or mental ill-health. People describe how periods of incarceration were damaging, not only to them serving the sentence, but also partners, children and family. People said that gambling was a very common part of prison life so being in prison could add to their gambling. Prison and probation services did not understand gambling addiction and did not provide help for it.
Some people have spoken about proceeds of crime proceedings. This is when the prosecution service tries to get back money or assets that come from criminal activity, so those who commit crime do not benefit from it. However, people driven to crime by gambling addiction have not benefited from their crime. They have no money and have debt. Requiring them to pay back money they have taken adds to the financial burden on them and their families. Meanwhile, the money from their crime has all gone to the gambling companies.
The person’s reputation is damaged, and they may have lost their job and career. The impact of having a criminal record can lead to difficulty getting work and can undermine earning potential. This makes it difficult for the person to find and sustain employment and to regain financial stability.
Legacy harms, you know. Getting a job with a criminal record can be hard. Insurance when you’ve got a criminal record and you’ve been declared bankrupt is tough. I can’t be a trustee on a charity because I’ve got a bankruptcy and I’ve got a criminal record.
Even after a custodial sentence is completed, or money has been paid back, many have described the ongoing shame and self-stigma they feel, and the stigma they experience from their community.