JANUARY 21, 2010 08:18AM
TASMANIANS are stealing food, nappies and even baby formula as they struggle to cope with gambling addiction. A shocking new study has found that half of all Tasmanian gambling addicts who committed a crime as a result of their habit were first-time offenders who held senior management positions or positions of trust. In the past five years, 41 people have appeared in the Tasmanian Supreme Court charged over gambling-related thefts involving $6.8 million. The largest theft was $4.5 million and the smallest $539.
The cost to the Tasmanian taxpayer to jail the offenders was $3.8 million, or an average of $263 a person a day. Four cases before the courts also involved drug trafficking in an effort to fund the gambling addiction. Six of the cases involved violent crimes. Anglicare Tasmania yesterday released the findings of its new report, Nothing Left To Lose, which calls for better consumer protection and new sentencing options for Tasmania's growing number of gambling addicts. Report author Margie Law said there was a clear link between crime and problem gambling. Ms Law said gambling was clearly causing ordinary people to do things they would not ordinarily do. In half the cases between 2004 and 2009, the offender had no previous convictions and had become caught in a gambling web. "In all 21 cases involving first offenders, the crime was not violent and prior to their conviction the majority of these people were employed and often held positions of trust," Ms Law said. "Many of them were under stress from work and family pressures and turned to gambling as a form of relief. What they got instead was escalating debt and a prison sentence." One of the most notable convictions was that of Tasmanian Crown prosecutor Michael Shirley who stole $200,000 in cash, seized mostly from drug dealers, to feed his addiction to Keno. Mr Shirley was jailed in 2008 and is eligible for parole in March. The...