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Research commission: Lived experience

Exploring people’s experience of crime and gambling related harms

Exploring people’s experience of crime and gambling related harms


The Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms has commissioned an academic literature review that has shown that there is limited existing research into the relationship between crime and gambling related harms. Most research has been undertaken in other jurisdictions, notably Australia, the US and Canada. The Commission seeks to understand the relationship between crime and gambling related harms in England and Wales.

A recent study focussing on Great Britain suggests that over their lifetime, problem gamblers are 4.4 times more likely to serve a prison sentence compared with the average member of the population (IPPR, 2016). The literature suggests that problem gambling causes harm to the individual, their immediate networks, and the wider community.

This research sought to focus on and amplify the voices of those directly affected by problem gambling and crime. It aimed to highlight the complex interplay between crime and gambling related harms through in-depth qualitative research about people’s lived experiences. The literature review suggested that the relationship may not be simple, pointing to factors such as demographic background, gender, mental health, and cross-addictions as well as co-morbidities and lifestyle factors. This suggests a complex picture when looking to develop a greater understanding of the relationship between and the trajectory of problem gambling and crime.

The aim of the research was to map issues such as how people first engage with gambling, what types of gambling they partake in, how it escalates and when and how it results in the committing of crime. The research also sought to identify how it affects key relationships such as employment, social and familial networks. It facilitated a greater understanding about whether (and if so, how) interventions or treatments for gambling related harm and addiction are sought or utilised.

The research was undertaken by conducting interviews with people who have lived experience of gambling related harms and crime.

Research commission updates 

In November 2021, Dr Lauren Smith presented the research findings to the Commission. You can read the minutes of the meeting here and view the presentation slides here.

The research was presented at a webinar, which explored the complex interplay between crime and gambling harms held at HMPPS Insights festival on Tuesday 17 May. The video recording of the webinar can be viewed below.

Final report

In March 2022 the research findings were published in a full report, available here, and summary, available here.

The research team 

Dr Lauren Smith, Lecturer at the University of Lincoln, has been appointed to conduct this research.

Dr Lauren Smith
Lecturer in Psychology, University of Lincoln.

Lauren joined the University of Lincoln in April 2020, having spent over 10 years working as a Practitioner within the criminal justice system.  Her previous employment with Lincolnshire Action Trust involved supporting people at various stages within the criminal justice system, including courts, prison and probation.  She worked as a Resettlement Practitioner and Senior Resettlement Practitioner, supporting men to prepare for release from prison through providing one-to-one and group sessions in relation to accommodation, employment and training, and finances.  She also worked with HMP Lincoln to develop and deliver the innovative Supporting People After Remand or Conviction (SPARC) service which offers support to people during their transition from court into prison.  In addition, she has worked within prison family support services.  More recently, she was the Performance and Development Manager for Lincolnshire Action Trust, responsible for the development of new services, training of new staff, and contract compliance.  Prior to her employment with Lincolnshire Action Trust, she has also worked as a Psychological Assistant for HM Prison and Probation Service, and worked extensively with families experiencing homelessness.

Lauren conducts both qualitative and quantitative research which focusses on the resettlement and reintegration of people with convictions.  Her PhD research focussed on how people can be supported during their transitions through custody.  She has also completed an evaluation of the Prison Voicemail Service and researched gambling in prison.  Most recently, she has undertaken research to explore the impact of Covid-19 on families of people in prison and on people who are experiencing homelessness.

At a local level, Lauren represents the University on the Lincolnshire Reducing Offending Core Priority Group.

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