UK Police to Screen Gambling Addicted Suspects


Criminal suspects will be routinely screened for gambling addiction by police forces across England and Wales due to increasing concerns that high-stakes gambling is pushing the crime rates up in a similar way to alcohol and drugs.

Ten police forces are now routinely questioning suspects in custody over their gambling habits, in addition to questions over their drug and alcohol abuse. There are also plans to implement similar policies in 2023.

The police and crime commissions are now calling for better safeguards in a bid to ward off the proceeds of crime being used for gambling. In a similar case, Martin Sargeant, a former head of operations at the Church of England, defrauded the church in excess of £5.2m and gambled millions of pounds on online slot machines whilst being offered luxury watches, foot hampers, and bonuses from various online gambling sites.

Joy Allen, the police and crime commissioner for Durham, insisted that the association would like to see screening carried out by all police forces. “This is a real opportunity for a better understanding of the causes of crime and early treatment,” she said. “We need to raise awareness that this is a disorder like alcohol and drugs, and it should be looked at in the same way.”

The UK government has calculated the annual cost of crimes linked to alcohol at £11bn and class A drug-related crimes at £13.9bn. To date, there is very limited data on the cost of crime linked to gambling.

Matt Burton, a former assistant chief constable of Cheshire police, has stated that gambling association needs to be taken more seriously in the criminal justice system. More training is required to spot problem gamblers. He also added that while addiction can be hard to avoid, it is also very easily accessible.

Online gambling and betting firms are under increasing pressure from the UK Gambling Commission to boost their procedures in identifying money laundering, the proceeds of crime or possible irresponsible gambling. The UK Commission has also taken action against numerous firms over the years over such failures. Gambling company Entain was fined a whopping £17m in August 2022 for safer gambling and anti-money laundering failure.

Director of Clean Up Gambling Matt Zarb-Cousin has said that there have been many repeated failures by the gambling industry to stop in their tracks betting sprees linked to problem gambling and illicit funds; “These failures illustrate why affordability cannot be entrusted to the discretion of gambling firms which derive the vast majority of their profits from those losing more than they can afford.”

A spokesperson for the government has said that new support services were being given to gambling addicts: “We understand the costs of gambling addiction to society, which is why we are building specialist NHS gambling addiction treatment clinics across the country as part of our £2.3bn expansion of mental health services.”