Criminology Gambling
James Banks
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0312


Gambling and crime are common and, at times, intersecting behaviors that to different degrees and in various forms take place across many regions of the world. Indeed, throughout history, gambling itself has been depicted as both a criminal and criminogenic activity. For example, in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, gambling was seen by many as a national scourge, leading to fecklessness and crime, and was subject to selective prohibition. Similarly, in the United States, attitudes toward gambling have fluctuated over time, with gambling being construed as a criminal and moral evil as well as a popular leisure activity with social and economic benefits. However, the latter decades of the 20th century have seen many states’ tolerance of gambling turn to one of acceptance, with gambling recast as a mainstream leisure pursuit. Neoliberal economic policies adopted by a significant number of countries since the 1970s have resulted in the liberalization of gambling laws and policy and the development of an increasingly global commercial gambling industry. Accelerated by technological innovation, a culture of consumption, increased wealth, and freely available credit, opportunities to gamble have proliferated across Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific. Yet, the widespread availability of increasingly potent gambling products and services has resulted in gambling-related harm becoming a significant public health issue that has raised public and political concern and been the subject of academic attention. Such harms occur across multiple domains—financial, health, emotional and psychological, relationship, work, and education—and extend beyond individual gamblers, affecting families, communities, and wider society. Since the early 1960s, international gambling studies has been dominated by research looking to reduce gambling problems and gambling-related harms. Despite this, the interconnection between gambling and crime has not been an area of extensive research inquiry, although the breadth of studies illustrates that the relationship between gambling and crime is complex and multifaceted. Academic research in this area has explored the impact of betting establishments on crime within communities, the relationship between crime and problem gambling, gambling-related crime and the administration of justice, gambling and organized crime, betting-related manipulation of sporting events, and online gambling-related offending.

General Overviews

A number of books, papers, and chapters have sought to provide a general overview of or taxonomies that account for the manifold relationships between gambling and crime, drawing on scholarly research since the early 1960s. Spapens, et al. 2009 examines research related to gambling-related crime and addiction, and legal aspects of gambling regulation, at both European Union and Member State level. Banks 2017 provides an international overview of the actual, possible, and probable relationships between gambling and crime in the context of the deregulation and liberalization of gambling across many jurisdictions, which has led to increased availability of gambling products and services. Adolphe, et al. 2018 offers a systematic review of studies, with the aim of identifying the nature of crimes perpetrated by problem gamblers and the factors that contribute to the commission of gambling-related offenses. A report for the Howard League, Ramanauskas 2020, provides an overview of the research landscape relating to problem gambling and crime, highlighting the key findings from studies across international jurisdictions that collectively illustrate a clear relationship between disordered gambling and crime. Smith, et al. 2003 and Banks and Waugh 2019 review the extant literature on gambling and crime and develop taxonomies through which to examine and better comprehend different types of gambling-related crime. Collectively, this work demonstrates a multiplicity of interrelationships between gambling and crime that are complex and dynamic.

  • Adolphe, Ashley, Lora Khatib, Celine van Golde, Sally M. Gainsbury, and Alex Blaszczynski. 2018. Crime and gambling disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Gambling Studies 35.2: 395–414.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10899-018-9794-7

    This systematic review highlights that nonviolent, income-generating offenses are the principal forms of gambling-related crime. Evidence does, however, indicate that problem gamblers may commit violent crimes at a higher-than-expected rate, and that such offenses may well be deliberately and unintentionally underreported.

  • Banks, James. 2017. Gambling, crime and society. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-57994-2

    A detailed overview of existing research and theory, policy, and practice relating to gambling, crime, and criminal justice. This includes problem gambling, crime and the administration of justice, the impact of the availability and propinquity of land-based betting establishments on crime, the role of organized crime in the provision of licit and illicit gambling, offending at internet gambling sites, and sport and betting-related corruption.

  • Banks, James, and Dan Waugh. 2019. A taxonomy of gambling-related crime. International Gambling Studies 19.2: 339–357.

    DOI: 10.1080/14459795.2018.1554084

    This paper reviews the extant literature on gambling and crime before outlining a taxonomy through which to explore and better understand different types of gambling-related crime. The policy-oriented framework seeks to organize crime research and knowledge with a view to supporting risk analysis, regulatory review, and crime prevention strategies.

  • Ramanauskas, Sarah. 2020. Crime and problem gambling: A research landscape; The report of the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling. London: Howard League for Penal Reform.

    A review of the academic and relevant gray literature relating to problem gambling and crime. This report summarizes evidence relating to the prevalence of crime attributable to problem gambling, types and frequency of crime, characteristics of disordered gamblers who commit crime, and gamblers and the criminal justice system.

  • Smith, J. Garry, Harold Wynne, and Tim F. Hartnagel. 2003. Examining police records to assess gambling impacts: A study of gambling-related crime in the city of Edmonton; A study prepared for the Alberta Gaming Research Institute. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Gaming Research Institute.

    This report analyzes police data, with a view to identifying the degree to which gambling leads to crime in the city of Edmonton, Canada. The report provides a detailed literature review of gambling-related crimes, policing and regulation, and criminological theories that can be used to explain such offending.

  • Spapens, Toine, Alan Littler, and Cyrille Fijnaut, eds. 2009. Crime, addiction and the regulation of gambling. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.

    This edited collection focuses on research into the problems of gambling-related crime and addiction that has been undertaken in a number European Union Member States, and their legislative responses. The collection also examines legislative and policy development at an EU level, including European Commission and European Court of Justice decision-making.

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