Problem gambling is often seen as a struggle that primarily affects men. While it is true that men represent the largest share of the betting public, and of problem gamblers, women are also susceptible to this addiction.
For decades, gambling was seen as more of a men’s domain. Whether it was by lack of interest or by social convention, most women wouldn’t even entertain the idea of walking into a betting shop. However, online gaming and the industry’s efforts to find new customers for a growing offer of gambling products have helped normalise gambling for the female public. Not only that, there’s even been an effort to try and portray gambling as a couple’s activity.
How problem gambling manifests itself in players, however, tends to vary considerably based on one’s gender. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics and figures and see how this problematic behaviour impacts women gamblers.
Women and Gambling: Running the Numbers
A recent study by the UK Gambling Commission produced some revealing stats on this topic. For instance, about 41% of female respondents claimed to have engaged in gambling within the previous four weeks. While men still gambled at a higher rate, the key difference is their motivation.
The largest share of men reported they were most likely to gamble for fun. In contrast, women said that winning was their primary reason for playing. Also, motivations such as escapism, loss, abandonment and bereavement, may be more common among female gamblers.
Part of the reason for the increase in gambling activity is accessibility. While the advent of online platforms made betting a much more readily-available activity, it’s the rise of mobile gambling that presents the greatest opportunity to bet. It also provides anonymity and a sense of safety that many wouldn’t find in traditional betting venues. The Gambling Commission’s study shows that, in 2018, 43% of women gamblers played using their phone – a 5% increase compared the year before.
Women Gamblers Aren’t Alone
The stats give an impression of the problem. However, the real-life stories of individual women back up the premise. As many can testify it’s a problem that tends to start small, then snowballs rapidly. Within a short time, casual female gamblers can find themselves addicted to online play – just like their male counterparts.
So, what can you do if you or someone you love is caught up in an addiction to online gambling? One of the first steps should be self-exclusion. This describes the practice of consciously preventing yourself from engaging in an activity, either by personal behaviour or through tools designed to block access to harmful sites.
Even when it comes to self-exclusion, though, there is still a disparity between genders. Of the 47% of respondents who were aware of self-exclusion as a means to address problem gambling, men reported self-excluding at a rate nearly double that of women (7% of all respondents, compared to 4%). The numbers are even lower for women who purchased a product to help them self-exclude, representing just 1% of respondents.
The journey towards recovery can begin by a multi-layer self-exclusion strategy: blocking all devices from accessing gambling sites and apps with Gamban, enrolling with the national self-exclusion schemes (if your country has one) and blocking payments to gambling operators – if your current bank doesn’t provide that, shop around for one that does.
While abstinence can increase your chances of recovery, those with a gambling addiction should also seek treatment rather than relying solely on technology. If you are in the UK, we recommend you get in touch with the National Gambling Helpline.