Over the last two decades, Canadian society has experienced an explosive growth in the availability and diversity of gambling activities.
Gambling leads to significant economic and social costs, notably as a result of gambling-related crime. Prison inmates appear to stand out when it comes to problem gambling.
Québec's prisons contain a lower proportion of gamblers (58%) than the general population (around 80%), but a higher proportion of at-risk (1.7%) or probable pathological (2.7%) gamblers than the general population (0.9 and 0.8 % respectively). Total legal and illegal income declared by at-risk and probable pathological gamblers is higher than for recreational gamblers and non-gamblers. It is likely that a significant part of this income is used to finance gambling activities.
A significant percentage of the prisoners' crimes served to finance their drug consumption and gambling habits.
Furthermore, in many cases there seems to be a relationship between problem gambling and alcohol and drug use. Whether this is due to addiction transfer from psychoactive substance to gambling or a double addiction, there appears to be an economic-compulsive link between these behaviours and crime. Some prisoners admit that a significant percentage of their crimes served primarily to finance their drug consumption as well as their gambling habits. In these cases, the criminal behaviour tends to be lucrative and is likely to escalate. These indications reinforce the importance of effective intervention to reduce the risk of criminal recidivism.
The study points out that while in-house screening for drug and alcohol use is common in institutions, screening for problem gambling is much less so. This is an avenue to develop, in order to provide a better idea of the extent of problem gambling in the prison population and make it easier to target those in need of intervention.
Marie-Marthe Cousineau, Université de Montréal
Call for proposals
Deposit of the research report: March 2011