Gambling and Homelessness: Prevalence and Pathways
Purpose of Review
The review sought to present research pertaining to gambling and homelessness. Findings mapping the prevalence of disordered gambling within the homeless and those exploring the bi-directional nature of the relationship are discussed. The review explores theoretical explanations for the appeal of gambling to homeless individuals and discusses future directions.
Research indicates the prevalence of disordered gambling is significantly higher in the homeless, comparable to the general population. Further research indicates that gambling is more commonly a factor contributing to homelessness, that gambling disorders are often overlooked by homeless services, and that support services are often inadequate.
Disordered gambling is common in homelessness; however, the relationship is bi-directional. Gambling can be a direct cause of homelessness, a secondary contributing factor, or only develop after the individual has become homeless. Potential for significant life change is a motivating factor for gambling; for a homeless individual, a small win could be the difference between eating and not eating, or between sleeping in a hostel or on the street. Homeless services can provide a platform for problem identification and direction to the provision of support.
KeywordsGambling Homelessness Prevalence Disordered gambling Pathological gambling
Dr. Sharman is currently funded by an Academic Fellowship from the Society for the Study of Addiction. Some of Dr. Sharman’s previous work referenced in this review [67•] was funded by GambleAware. GambleAware is an independent charity tasked to fund research, education and treatment services to help reduce gambling-related harms in Great Britain, funded via voluntary donations from the gambling industry.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Dr. Sharman declares that he has no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies reporting new data with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors. All studies referenced authored by the author of this article were conducted after receiving appropriate ethical approval.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance
- 1.Rose IN. Gambling and the law®: an introduction to the law of internet gambling. UNLV Gaming Res Rev J. 2006;10(1):1.Google Scholar
- 2.Schwartz DG. Roll the bones: the history of gambling.Google Scholar
- 6.Thomas S, Pitt H, Bestman A, Randle M, Daube M, Pettigrew S. Child and parent recall of gambling sponsorship in Australian sport. Victoria: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation; 2016. p. 1.Google Scholar
- 17.• Shaffer HJ, Freed CR, Healea D. Gambling disorders among homeless persons with substance use disorders seeking treatment at a community center. Psychiatr Serv. 2002;53(9):1112–7. This study provides an important international measure of gambling in the homeless population, from the USA–7.Google Scholar
- 20.• Matheson FI, Devotta K, Wendaferew A, Pedersen C. Prevalence of gambling problems among the clients of a Toronto homeless shelter. J Gambl Stud. 2014;30(2):537–46. This study provides an important international measure of gambling in the homeless population, from Canada–46.Google Scholar
- 22.• Sharman S, Dreyer J, Aitken M, Clark L, Bowden-Jones H. Rates of problematic gambling in a British homeless sample: a preliminary study. J Gambl Stud. 2015;31(2):525–32 This study provided the first estimate of disordered gambling prevalence in the UK, and is also the study with largest reported sample specifically to identify disordered gambling prevalence in the homeless.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 23.Wardle, H., Moody, A., Spence, S., Orford, J., Volberg, R., Jotangia, D., et al. British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010. London (UK): National Centre for Social Research. 2011.Google Scholar
- 24.• Sharman S, Dreyer J, Clark L, Bowden-Jones H. Down and out in London: addictive behaviors in homelessness. J Behav Addict. 2016;5(2):318–24 This study provides a recent estimate of gambling disorder prevalence in a homeless sample, seeks to understand the direction of the relationship, and provides data relating to the provision and utilisation of gambling support services.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 25.Lesieur HR, Blume SB. The south oaks gambling screen (SOGS): a new instrument for the identification of pathological gamblers. Am J Psychiatr. 1987;144(9).Google Scholar
- 29.Ferris J, Wynne H. The Canadian problem gambling index. Ottawa, ON, Canada: Canadian Centre on Subst Abus 2001.Google Scholar
- 30.Pluck G, Nakakarumai M, Sato Y. Homelessness and cognitive impairment: an exploratory study in Tokyo, Japan. East Asian Arch Psychiatr. 2015;25(3):122–7.Google Scholar
- 31.• Thorley C, Stirling A, Huynh E. Cards on the table: the cost to government associated with people who are problem gamblers in Britain. IPPR Report. 2016. This paper provides an excellent estimation of the financial cost of gambling to the UK government across a range of different areas. Google Scholar
- 32.Rose A, Maciver C and Davies B. Nowhere fast: the journey in and out of unsupported temporary accommodation, IPPR. (2016) http://www.ippr.org/publications/ nowhere-fast-the-journey-in-and-out-of-unsupported-temporary-accommodation. Accessed 10th Dec 2018
- 37.Lipmann B, Mirabelli F, Rota-Bartelink A. Homelessness among older people: a comparative study in three countries of prevention and alleviation. Melbourne: Wintringham; 2004.Google Scholar
- 49.O'Callaghan B, Dominian L, Evans A, Dix J, Smith R, Williams P, Zimmeck M. Study of homeless applicants. HM Stationery Office; 1996.Google Scholar
- 51.Kemp PA, Lynch E, Mackay D. Structural trends and homelessness: a quantitative analysis. Edinburgh: Stationery Office; 2001.Google Scholar
- 53.Orford J. Low income and vulnerability for gambling problems. Addiction. 2004;99(10):1356.Google Scholar
- 58.Clotfelter CT, Cook PJ. Selling hope: state lotteries in America. Harvard University Press. 1991.Google Scholar
- 65.• Lopes LL. Between hope and fear: the psychology of risk. In: Advances in experimental social psychology 1987 Jan 1 (Vol. 20, pp. 255–295). Academic Press. The article is important as it introduces the concept of the psychoeconomics of gambling in relation to homelessness. Google Scholar
- 66.Cooter R, Ulen T. Law and economics. (6th ed.). Berkeley Law Books. Berkeley: Addison-Wesley; 2016.Google Scholar
- 67.• Sharman S, D’Ardenne, J. Gambling and homelessness: developing an information sheet, screening tool and resource sheet. London: GambleAware, 2018. This study utilises a qualitative approach to understand the appeal of gambling within a homeless sample, and has developed a range of tools to assist homelessness practitioners in the identification and provision of support for homeless gamblers. Google Scholar
- 68.• Williams RJ, Volberg RA, Stevens RM. The population prevalence of problem gambling: Methodological influences, standardized rates, jurisdictional differences, and worldwide trends. Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre; 2012 May 8. This paper is important when considering prevalence of gambling problems in specific countries, and populations as it highlights some of the methodological flaws and difficulties faced by researchers. Google Scholar