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Gambling And Problem Gambling Among Prison Inmates

The Government is currently reviewing all gaming legislation. A public discussion document to assist in the development of submissions is available from the Department of Internal Affairs. Submissions close on April 30.

New Zealand Gaming Survey Reports Released

Gambling And Problem Gambling Among Prison Inmates

Prison inmates experience much higher rates of problem gambling than the general population, according to internationally groundbreaking research released today by Professor Max Abbott and the Department of Internal Affairs.

Gambling and Problem Gambling Among Recently Sentenced Males in Four New Zealand Prisons and Gambling and Problem Gambling Among Recently Sentenced Women Prisoners in New Zealand are the latest reports in the Department of Internal Affairs New Zealand Gaming Survey.

The study, which involved interviews with 357 recently sentenced men in four prisons and 94 women in three prisons, is the largest study of its type in the world and the first to include women.

Professor Max Abbott, Dean of the Faculty of Health Studies at the Auckland University of Technology, was the project leader, working in partnership with the National Research Bureau (NRB).

He said the study is of a highly atypical group within New Zealand society.

" We have to be careful not to generalise their problems to those of problem gamblers living in other settings."

Approximately a third of women and a quarter of men were found to be problem gamblers at the time of their imprisonment. The majority had serious problems, comparable to clients receiving specialist treatment for pathological gambling.

"While the extent of problem gambling among prisoners is extraordinarily high, only a relatively small number of inmates began their criminal careers in response to problem gambling. Most were offending prior to developing gambling problems, often associated with childhood conduct disorders.

However, problem gambling appeared to play an important role in the continuation of their criminal careers once problems had developed," Professor Abbott said.

He said that the study also highlights the significant costs of problem gambling to the community by way of gambling-related crime.

The two final reports in the New Zealand Gaming Survey will be released by 30 June, 2001.

A consortium led by Professor Max Abbott and Dr Rachel Volberg was commissioned by the Department of Internal Affairs to conduct the New Zealand Gaming Survey. Both are regarded as international leaders in the area of gaming research. Other members of the consortium include Statistics New Zealand, the National Research Bureau, and Taylor Baines & Associates.

Funding for the New Zealand Gaming Survey came from the undistributed profits of the Lotteries Commission and the Problem Gambling Committee

The full text of both reports will be available on the Department of Internal Affairs Website from midday March 13, 2001.


· Just over a quarter of women and 15 percent of men said that they had committed at least one criminal offence to obtain money for gambling or to pay gambling debts. People with serious gambling problems committed most of these offences, which mainly involved burglary, fraud, theft and robbery.

· Nearly one-in-five women and one-in-ten-men reported that they had been convicted for a gambling-related crime. In the case of men, over half reported five or more convictions of this type; in the case of women most said they had only one gambling-related conviction.

· Of the 70 problem gamblers who were aware that they had problems, 44 had wanted help at some time to stop gambling. Of the 15 of these people who had tried to get help for gambling problems while in prison, six had received it.

· The study also looked at the effects of other peoples' gambling on prisoners. Spouses' and partners' problem gambling had the most impact. Loss of household or personal money, arguments, anger and violence, neglect of the family, and contributing to the development of their own gambling problems were most often mentioned.

· Although gambling-related crimes rarely involved violence, inmates with gambling problems were no less likely than other inmates to have committed a violent offence unrelated to gambling.

· The survey indicates that many prisoners had multiple problems, often including the hazardous use of alcohol and heavy use of cannabis and other drugs and that treatment for most problem gamblers in prison would need to address these problems as well. Effective treatment for problem gambling could have a significant impact on inmate rehabilitation and re-offending.

· The study found that non-casino gaming machines, betting on horse and dog races and playing cards for money were associated with the development of gambling problems. Professor Abbott said these forms had also been found to be important in other New Zealand studies that he had conducted and that these findings are relevant to the present review of gambling.

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