The relationship between legal gambling and crime in Alberta

Abstract

One of the main justifications used for the expansion of legal gambling is that gambling provides increased revenue to governments and community groups. However, critics argue that the social costs of legal gambling offset these benefits. One particularly controversial social cost of gambling is the impact that gambling has on crime. The academic literature is split with as many studies showing an increase in crime due to gambling as those that show no impact. The current study investigated how increased legal gambling availability has affected crime in Alberta. Four sources of data were examined: self-reports of gambling-related crime among problem gamblers in population surveys; gambling-related crime in police incident reports; uniform crime statistics from Statistics Canada; and criminal offences as recorded by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC). The most unambiguous findings of this study are that gambling-related crime constitutes a very small percentage of all crime; crime that is gambling related tends to be non-violent property crime; and increased legal gambling availability has significantly decreased rates of illegal gambling. In terms of the impact of legalized gambling on overall crime in Alberta, the evidence would suggest that legalized gambling likely has a minor or negligible impact.

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