Treatment-seeking problem gamblers: characteristics of individuals who offend to finance gambling
The relationship between crime and gambling is well established; however, few studies have examined offending specifically to finance gambling within a UK gambling treatment-seeking population. The aims of this study were to establish whether clients reporting such offending behaviour could be identified in terms clinical characteristics that signal heightened vulnerability, such as a more severe clinical profile (e.g., mental health diagnoses), more extreme gambling-related activity, and more damage and disruption though gambling to relational and professional pursuits.
A total of 1226 treatment-seeking gamblers at the National Problem Gambling Clinic, UK completed the Problem Gambling Severity Index, Patient Health Questionnaire and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 item scale, and were asked whether they had committed any illegal behaviours to finance gambling alongside other questions about childhood, gambling activities and related harms.
A total of 42.5% reported offending behaviour (42.7% males, 39.8% females). A greater proportion of the offending group was single or married/cohabiting, had a lower-level qualifications, lower income, had experienced childhood abuse, family mental health problems compared with the non-offending group. Those who had committed a crime to finance gambling were also more likely to have a mental health diagnosis (45.3% compared to 31.3%; χ2 (1, n = 1112) = 21.631 p=0.001), such as depression and anxiety and more severe problem gambling than those who had not. They started gambling at an earlier age (by 2 years), gambled more days in the month before treatment started and were more likely to have lost a job and a relationship due to gambling.
Disordered gamblers who offend make up a discrete and complex subgroup with distinct vulnerabilities. Findings will be useful to clinicians involved in the assessment and management of problematic gambling. Gamblers who offend to finance gambling may have different treatment needs and treatment providers should administer appropriate clinical interventions to address vulnerabilities.