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Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms

The Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms was launched by the Howard League for Penal Reform in June 2019, with an ambition to answer three questions:

  • What are the links between gambling related harms and crime?
  • What impact do these links have on communities and society?
  • What should be done?

The Commission held its first business meeting in June 2019 and issued a call for written evidence, inviting submissions from academics, practitioners and policy makers within the criminological, legal and health disciplines; the gambling industry; and people who are expert by experience. The Commission held evidence sessions with ministers and senior stakeholders using select committee style meetings.

In 2022, the Commission changed its name to the Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms (formerly the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling) to reflect learning from research and lived experience.

The Commission came to a close in April 2023, concluding with a final report and reception at the House of Lords hosted by Chair Lord Goldsmith KC.

Final report: findings and recommendations

The Commission built on a limited existing evidence base regarding the nature of and links between gambling-related harms and crime. The Commission has sought to address these gaps in knowledge and understanding, whilst identifying and building on initiatives and areas of good practice.

The Commission’s findings and recommendations are summarised in the final report, available here.

The Commission found that:

  • The impact of gambling-related harm and crime touches all aspects of life e.g. finances, employment, relationships, health. Growing recognition of this.
  • There is a high incidence of people committing crimes to fund their gambling.
  • Gambling is linked to a wide range of crime, as both a causal and contextual factor. White-collar/acquisitive crimes, as well as street robbery, domestic abuse and neglect, criminal damage, drugs offences.
  • Victims of gambling-related crime include employers (acquisitive offences), but also social/familial networks (acquisitive and violent offences).
  • Despite pockets of good practice, there is limited understanding of gambling-related harm and addiction among criminal justice agencies. This impacts on sentencing, rehabilitation, recovery and support.
  • Some criminal justice responses including Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) orders and gambling culture in prison are counterproductive.
  • The impact of gambling related harms and crime on affected others, women, and people from ethnic minority communities is disproportionate and poorly understood.

Our recommendations

Developing a strategic approach

  • Gambling Commission revenues to fund local and regional criminal justice and health infrastructure around treatment and support (police, courts, prisons, support pathways).
  • Central drive from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Home Office to signal problem of gambling-related harms within the criminal justice system and support funding for a systematic approach.
  • Development of a national board of senior representatives from criminal justice and health agencies, including lived experience representation.

Enhancing the role of criminal justice agencies

  • Development of screening and assessment processes, guidance and training at multiple points within the criminal justice process.
  • Collaboration between criminal justice and public health agencies to develop both diversionary and through-the-gate support routes and pathways.
  • Integration of lived experience voice.
  • Guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the use of POCA in gambling-related cases.
  • MoJ pilot and evaluation of existing sentencing options for gambling-related crime.
  • Improvements to sentencing guidelines re gambling disorder, culpability and mitigation.
  • Review of the Equal Treatment Benchbook, considering gambling disorder alongside current consideration of drug and alcohol use.
  • HMPPS to recognise and consider the nature of gambling in prison and how best to achieve cultural change on gambling within prison environments.

Integrating gambling-related crime into cross-government action

  • Parliamentary select committee inquiry.
  • Cross-departmental oversight body.
  • External review regarding regulator/operator steps to address criminal activity, gambling-related harms, and provision of support.
  • Careful consideration by Home Office and Gambling Commission regarding the application and suitability of asset confiscation.

Areas for further research

  • Prevalence and potential determinants (relationship between gambling and crime; intersection of demographic and social factors; inter-generational harms; impact of proliferation/availability of gambling products). Establish core data set between cjs and public health.
  • The nature and efficacy of support and treatment (what constitutes effect support/interventions; upstream prevention; affected others; appropriate outcome measures).
  • Societal and system impact (the financial costs to society of gambling-related harms in the criminal justice system; impact on prosecution practices e.g. culpability, mitigation).

Research and publications

An academic literature review was conducted to assist the Commission in its work. The review, Crime and problem gambling: A research landscape is free to download here and the press release announcing its publication can be found here.

In October 2021, the Commission published State of Play, a briefing which summarised the evidence uncovered so far and made initial recommendations to government and policymakers. You can read the briefing here.

The Commission also published the report of its first research project, Sentencers’ understanding and treatment of problem gamblers. You can read the full report here, and the summary here.

In March 2022, the Commission published the report of its second research project, “Surviving, not living”: Lived experiences of crime and gambling. You can read the full report here, and the summary here.

In June 2022, the Commission published the report of its third research project, Police awareness and practice regarding gambling related harms. You can read the full report here, and the summary here.

In March 2023, the Commission published reports of two more research projects. The first was Holding it all together and picking up the pieces: Women’s experiences of gambling and crime (full report here, summary here). The second was Exploring gambling and its role within prison culture: “You can be flying high, then fighting” (full report here, summary here).

In April 2023, the Commission published the research report Lived experiences of gambling, gambling-related harms, and crime within ethnic minority communities. You can read the full report here, and summary here.

The Commission’s final report is available here.

You can find out more about the Commission’s research using the ‘Research Commissions’ menu to the right of the page.

Although the name of the Commission has changed, previous publications retain the Commission’s original name to ensure continued access.


The Commission’s work was featured in a BBC File on 4 documentary focusing on the missed opportunities within the criminal justice system to help people affected by crime and gambling-related harms.

‘Gambling on Justice’, which first aired on 31 May 2022, can be downloaded and listened to from the BBC Radio 4 website and BBC Sounds app.

In March 2023, the Commission’s work was featured on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. Click here and skip to 15:10 to listen to the interview.

Consultation responses

In December 2020, The Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms submitted to the Law Commission’s review of Confiscation under Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002.  The submission can be found here.

In March 2021, The Commission made a submission to the review of the Gambling Act 2005. The submission can be found here.

In December 2021, The Commission made a submission to the NICE draft consultation on guideline scope for Gambling: identification, diagnosis and management. The submission can be found here.

About the Commission

The Commission was chaired by Lord Peter Goldsmith QC. He led a team of 12 Commissioners, comprising academics and professionals with expertise in the criminal justice system and public health as well as experts with knowledge of the gambling industry and lived experience of addiction.

Commissioners investigated patterns of crime linked to gambling related harms and addiction, and the societal harms that connect the two, before seeking to make recommendations for government, the gambling industry and within the criminal justice system.

The Commissioners focussed less on individuals and treatment and more on the broader impact that the links between crime and gambling related harms have on communities and society. They  considered how people affected by gambling related harms can be diverted from the criminal justice system.

The Commission looked at the driving forces influencing change and practice, including legislation, politics and the media. It engaged with industry and political leaders throughout its work.

The Commission’s work will be promoted through national and international media and on the Howard League website.

The Commission at the Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Howard League hosted an ancillary meeting on crime and problem gambling at the UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Kyoto, on 8 March 2021.

The recording of the full meeting is available here and the summary can be viewed below.


Keep in touch with the work of the Commission

If you wish to be kept up to date with our progress, please complete the form below.

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