Skip Content

While you’re here, can you help support our work by making a donation?

Donate close-circle

Research commission: women

Exploring the lived experience of women, crime and gambling related harm

Exploring the lived experience of women, crime and gambling related harm

Research in partnership with BetKnowMore

The research

This research seeks to focus on and amplify the voices of women directly affected by gambling harms, acknowledging intersectionality. It aims to highlight the complex interplay between crime and gambling related harm through in-depth qualitative research about people’s lived experiences. The overarching goal of this research is to develop and situate a knowledge base within the criminal justice system which recognises gambling harms and the specific related needs of women, thus lowering the potential for criminal justice interventions in the future.

The specific aims are to:

  • Identify the specific trajectories and experiences of women, acknowledging intersectionality, who are identified as experiencing gambling related harms and who have had engagement with the criminal justice system;
  • Provide a basis for understanding the needs of this group to raise awareness among opinion formers, professionals and the wider public; and
  • Highlight any deficits in criminal justice agencies’ understanding and provision and signposts for change identified.

The research will 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 them committing of crime. The research will seek to identify how it affects key relationships such as employment, social and familial networks. The research will also explore whether interventions or treatments for gambling related harms had been sought or utilised.

The research will begin in November 2021 and run for 10 months, and is due to be presented in a final report in September 2022.

You can download a copy of this information here.


The Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling has published an academic literature review that has shown that there is limited existing research into the relationship between crime and problem gambling (Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling, 2020). 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 harm in England and Wales. There is a particular gap in research and knowledge relating to the experiences of women in relation to crime and gambling harms. For example, Adolphe et al’s systematic review (2018) looking at the relationship between crime and problem gambling recognised the need for research assessing the role of demographic factors.

Awareness of and research into women’s experience of gambling harms is developing. GamCare (2020) reported that ‘Each year at least 30 per cent of callers to the National Gambling Helpline identify as female, half of whom call about their own gambling and half about someone else’s. One fifth of all clients in GamCare’s treatment services are women.’ Moreover, GamCare report that 23 per cent  of women surveyed discussed crime linked to gambling (ibid.).

Existing research about women, gambling related harm and crime suggests that women may commit crime to obtain money to gamble. A Canadian study (Abbott and McKenna, 2005) suggested that half of their sample (who met the criteria for problem gambling) had committed a crime to obtain money to gamble and concluded that most women in the criminal justice system were committing crimes prior to becoming problem gamblers.

The prevalence of women who have criminal justice involvement and have experienced gambling harm is being increasingly recognised. Research looking at arrests has suggested that women are as likely to have gambling problems as men (Lind and Kääriäinen, 2018) while Perrone et al (2013) found that a greater proportion of their female sample of arrestees could be classified as problem gamblers in contrast to their male sample. Research in Australia and Finland reports that problem gambling is higher among women in prison than the general population. This was not echoed in May-Chahal et al’s (2012) research in two English prisons – one male and one female – where men were around twice as likely to report problem gambling. Three per cent of women in prison in this sample identified a link between their current prison sentence and gambling, while this proportion more than doubled (seven per cent) in relation to crimes committed to finance gambling or pay off gambling debts.

Research commission updates

Please check back for reports on the team’s findings.

The research team

Dr Julie Trebilcock and Dr Nicola Harding have been appointed to conduct the research.

Dr Julie Trebilcock

Dr Julie Trebilcock is a senior lecturer in criminology with nearly fifteen years experience of working in and conducting research in the field of forensic mental health and imprisonment. Julie’s research has been primarily focused with the management of violent and sexual offenders with personality disorder. Her particular expertise is with the institutional pathways and legal authority by which high risk offenders are detained, parole board and mental health tribunal decision-making, and the staffing challenges involved with working with offenders with personality disorder. In the last five years Julie, as a co-investigator, has overseen two national evaluations of the offender personality disorder pathway (one with men, one with women). Julie has published widely in the field of mental health and offending, and has recently authored (with Dr Sam Weston) the book Mental Health and Offending: Care, Coercion and Control, which was published by Routledge in 2019. Elsewhere, Julie has been working with the Howard League for Penal Reform for more than 10 years having been successfully commissioned to undertake two pieces of research about short prison sentences, one of which was with women in prison. Julie is a current member of the Howard League’s Research Advisory Group. Julie has also previously worked at the National Problem Gambling Clinic where she was heavily involved with the design of their clinical and research assessments for incoming clients. Here, Julie was able to develop an understanding of some of the critical issues surrounding ‘problem’ gambling and the links to other harms, including crime, personal relationships and substance use. Julie’s most recent publication about the narratives students give about their pathways to studying criminology, reflects her increasing interest and experience of using narrative methods.

Dr Nicola Harding

Dr Nicola Harding is a lecturer in criminology who researches the contribution of lived experiences of crime, deviance, and social control. She has a PhD in sociology that examined the experiences of criminalised women subject to community punishment and probation supervision. This research was a co-produced, feminist, participatory action research project that explored the lived experiences of criminalised women and included creative elements such as photovoice and map making. Nicola has a significant working relationship with We Fight Fraud (WFF), a unique organisation that utilises subject matter experts from police, the media, academia and criminal backgrounds to combat fraud and financial crime. With WFF, she has completed work with peer researchers, leading to the publication of two white papers that have informed government policy around fraud and financial crime. Nicola’s research focus on lived experience as a form of subjugated knowledge within the discipline of criminology underpins a commitment to co-constructed research practices and narrative forms of understanding the complex lives of criminalised individuals.

Dr Liz Riley

Dr Liz Riley is the Research and Evaluation Manager at Betknowmore UK. Liz has considerable experience of conducting research on a wide range of subjects. She was a Lecturer and Researcher at UCL, where she managed and implemented research projects in a number of countries on subjects related to social policy and poverty reduction. She subsequently became a freelance researcher, undertaking projects such as diversity and equality research for a Scottish council, housing policy reviews and child protection policy research. She also has experience working in the voluntary sector with a regional drug and alcohol charity and a literacy programme for prisoners. She joined Betknowmore in January 2021 and has been conducting research into women’s lived experiences of gambling support services. She has published her research in a number of peer-reviewed journals and also co-authored a book on community partnerships.

Frankie Graham

Frankie Graham is the Founder and Chief Executive of Betknowmore UK. Having previously developed a track record of designing and developing youth and community projects to support vulnerable young people and offenders, Frankie then committed to using his lived experience of personal gambling dependency to set up his social enterprise. Betknowmore UK was launched in December 2013 and has developed a reputation of addressing the growing presence of gambling-related harm in UK communities with innovative and co-produced services, such as the ACT outreach support programme, the Don’t Gamble with Health project which was awarded a Public Health Award and Peer Aid – the first of its kind training and volunteering service for ‘Experts by Experience’. In 2021 Betknowmore UK became a charity and under Frankie’s leadership has expanded to providing expert training programmes and community-based support. Frankie provides gambling support and training consultancy to organisations in different sectors, including gambling, financial and housing providers. He is a Fellow at the School for Social Entrepreneurs and RSA and also contributed to the piloting and design of a peer support programme set up by the Kings Fund. He is a trained counsellor and business mentor, with a proven track record of project design and management.

Anna Niemczewska

Anna Niemczewska is the Head of Service, Betknowmore UK. Anna led Betknowmore’s Research function for two years before taking on the Head of Service role. Prior to that she gained over five years’ experience as the Research and Administration Coordinator, working across a consortium of 14 charities to research, for internal professional audiences and for external academic, political and public audiences, the most effective methods for furthering these charities’ missions using ICT. She leads on Betknowmore UK’s safeguarding policies and processes.

  • Join us

    Add your voice to our movement for change. Every voice counts and we hope that you will add yours.

    Join us today
  • Support our work

    Everything we do is focused on achieving less crime, safer communities, fewer people in prison. We need you to act now for penal reform.

    Ways to support