This post is also available in: French
It’s not going to sound too far-fetched to say that sometimes we want to escape our everyday lives. It could be that it’s stress we want to get away from, between family demands and working, or the exact opposite – that life feels stagnant and boring. For women, gambling can be an escape mechanism, and I know this myself, having dabbled in the online casinos.
Social Media and Online Opportunities
Gambling no longer has to involve going to a physical casino. You’ve likely seen the ads on Facebook and might have even clicked through them to get to a Vegas-style slot machine or cards table, all virtually-based. You can access a wide range of games via smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs.
Yes, technology is making gambling as an escape mechanism for women easier than ever, and more tempting too with some gaming sites specifically targeting women. Traditionally, women might have gone more for the scratchcard games (we call them “scratchies” here), but now the online sites are tapping into a previously ignored market as they try to get more females to enter the huge industry.
A Look at the Stats: Women and Gambling
As per a 1999 meta-analysis of disordered gambling behavior in the U.S. and Canada, roughly one-third of problem gamblers in the general population are women. In Australia, the number of female problem gamblers has increased significantly, from 14% in 1991 to 41% in 1999. It is likely not a coincidence that gaming machines there increased per capita over that span of time.
But while women are still in the minority of gamblers, this gender gap is declining, as per the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCP). In fact, American women aged 45-64 currently outnumber men as gamblers, asserts the NCP.
This rising number may surprise those who still see women in a traditional light as caretakers, moms, and stay-at-home wives. And it may be more difficult for them to see women as having problems with gambling because of this. But gambling isn’t just a man’s problem, as the statistics above illustrate.
A “hidden” addiction characterized by women gambling online in their homes is dangerous – and only by seeking out support groups and other treatment approaches can she get the help to regain a healthier lifestyle. So, why exactly are women gambling?
Women Who Gamble to Escape
A major reason is that gambling presents a form of escapism for her. It could be to escape stress. Perhaps she is heavy with guilt and wants to get away from it. Or maybe the woman is lonely. Playing an online game provides a distraction and a getaway from the day-to-day life problems.
For me, the reason was loneliness. I was done work and had the evening to myself. There was a fun online slot game that I found with these cute fruits in it. It amused me with the bright colors and time flew by. I was having fun, at first. But when I noticed that I would win for a while and then never seem to get ahead financially, I stopped. Of course, I was tempted by reminder emails to return to the site. And I did so once or twice more. But luckily it was only a few months before I realized the importance of practicing responsible gambling, including effectively managing money, and also expanded my social network.
While men might also gamble as a response to stress, women do so to a more severe degree, explains Heidi Sinclair, an SA Responsible Gambling Foundation counseling manager, to IOL. When gambling is a way of meeting a psychological need, it can develop into a harmful habit, as per Sinclair. While this might sound innocent, it can lead to debt, lying to the family about the actions and a personal emotional rollercoaster. There’s the thrill of potentially winning but then the depression if that doesn’t happen, which also comes with a cycle of debt.
It’s a cycle because gambling can lead to the obsession of trying to win. If she loses money, then she spends more with the goal to win. This is a compulsion. So, gambling time and again is the result, now with the aim to get her and her family out of debt and avoid having to come clean about what has happened.
How Can Women Overcome Problem Gambling?
As earlier explained, the image of women gambling is at odds with the conventional female image. So, women do so in secrecy, which makes it more difficult for those around them to see that they have a gambling problem AND for her to seek support. Plus, being secret can be easy to do if she games online using a tablet or another device; it is simple to conceal.
Thankfully, help is available for problem gambling. But first women must resolve that they want assistance and desire long-term recovery. Treatment typically includes counseling sessions that target the initial reason why her problem gambling occurred in the first place. Then, how does the woman move on from there? The sessions may involve arming her with the tools to express herself, trust others for support, problem solve in healthy ways, and more.
This post is also available in: French