HMP prison

Report: Problem gambling prevalent in UK prison system

Gambling is a normal part of day-to-day UK prison life, according to a report by Russell Webster, which examined the behaviour of 282 volunteers.

All participants were incarcerated at an unnamed Category B men’s prison, with a mixture of both convicted and on-remand prisoners for a range of offences.

A total of 45% of all participants reported gambling in prison, not too dissimilar to the 43% of un-incarcerated adults who gambled in the four weeks prior to the UKGC’s last gambling participation survey.

Overall, it was found that the majority of prisoners were not introduced to betting as a result of their imprisonment, with 66% stating that they had gambled in some way at some point in their life before their sentence. 

Of the 45% who reported gambling in prison, 92% said that they had gambled prior to incarceration, with just 8% stating that they had never done so before walking through the prison gates. SBC News Report: Problem gambling prevalent in UK prison system

Prior to imprisonment, 49% used gambling machines/slots, 46% on sports, 42% on horses and greyhounds, 37% on the lottery, 36% at casinos, 33% via online gambling sites and 24% playing card and dice games.

However, the survey did highlight one trend in particular as worrying, which saw 19% of prisoners report borrowing from other inmates to support their gambling habits, over half of whom had not repaid the debt.

When incarcerated, card and dice games were the most popular form of gambling among inmates at 52%, followed by sports betting at 46% and betting on ball games at 21.6%.

Wagering on dogs and horses stood at 14%, as did ‘other’ forms of prison gaming – such as gambling on sexual favours, TV programmes, the time of cell unlocking and board games.

Other activities bet on included ‘FIght Club’ – the study was not able to determine what this was, but suggested it could mean organised or forced fights between prisoners – as well as other people’s behaviour after having taken drugs.

Gambling on behaviour was more likely among those classified as higher risk on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), whilst 28% of survey participants were categorised as moderate to high risk in general.

The researchers also found that winning prizes, excitement/challenge and relieving boredom were the most common reasons for gambling in prison.

Of the 282 surveyed inmates, 30.3% stated that gambling in all its forms is a ‘normal part of prison life’ based on their experience.

Russell Webster stated that further research can be expected from the HMPPS and GamCare – the latter expanded its treatment and recovery resources to the Criminal Justice System earlier this year in partnership with Interventions Alliance in August.

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