Details from the Scottish Gambling Education Network meeting on 31 Aug

September 13, 2023

Our third network webinar of 2023 was on 31 August, and focused on ‘Gambling and Crime.’

Tickets for the event sold out, and discussion among speakers and attendees was engaged and thought-provoking. Speakers shared their lived experiences of gambling leading to crime, lack of support in the criminal justice system, and going on to support others. Speakers also shared research on gambling and crime, and links between gambling and human trafficking.

Tony O’Reilly (Author, Addiction Counsellor, expert by lived experience)

Tony shared his journey from getting involved in gambling through addiction, criminality, recovery, and becoming an addiction counsellor. He described experiencing a lack of gambling support in prisons. Further, when he did open up to his doctor, disordered gambling was not taken seriously.

He wrote his book with co-author Declan Lynch – Tony 10 – to share his story and raise awareness of gambling harms in Ireland.

Dr Helen Churcher (Howard League)

Helen introduced the Howard League’s Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harms, and shared the Commission’s final report. Their team commissioned six research projects to develop an evidence base around crime and gambling. They identified “an urgent need for ownership to be taken to reduce gambling harms related to crime” at both political and operational levels.

She detailed a list of recommendations including developing screening and assessment processes at multiple points within the criminal justice process. Helen also welcomed Tony and Steven’s contributions, after highlighting the importance of integrating the voices of lived experience.

Steven Nyandu (Betknowmore UK, expert by lived experience)

Steven shared his journey of getting involved in gambling at the start of a promising career in football. As his gambling escalated, he was regularly approached in betting shops with opportunities to get involved in crime. He described how his experience as a young black man in London contributed to his gambling, and the assumptions and stereotypes around gambling and criminal activity he witnessed.

After presenting himself to his GP, Steven was signposted to Betknowmore UK which ultimately led him to his career as a Safer Gambling Advisor. He shared his experiences working in young offenders as well as in adult custodial settings, often finding there was no support in place for gambling, and no clear pathways for signposting.

Steven underlined the importance of taking a holistic approach to gambling harms and crime, focused on rehabilitation and reducing reoffending.

Joy M Gillespie (Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland (SOHTIS))

Joy spoke to the links between gambling and human trafficking, and the need for organisations to improve their awareness of trafficking. She highlighted that it is the fastest growing trade in the world, worth more than the illegal arms trade.

The people most at risk include those who are:

  • In debt
  • Experiencing addictions
  • Experiencing poor mental health
  • Experiencing isolation or relationship breakdown

The impact of being trafficked is profound, and most victims don’t know they’re victims. Joy provided the example that someone may engage to pay off a gambling debt, then find they cannot disengage due to threats to loved ones.

She called on anyone to report concerns to the Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700 or by the Unseen App.

Maria Welsh (RCA Trust)

Maria provided information about the Bet You Can Help training programme, available for people in the criminal justice system. She also shared case studies on crimes which were linked to gambling, but where that connection was not immediately obvious at first sight.

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