Women & Gambling: Not Just for Good Ol’ Boys Anymore


Posted: February 21, 2014

Updated: February 21, 2014

Contrary to traditional perceptions, gambling is no longer the exclusive domain of men. Women are gambling in record numbers.

Forget the Hollywood-constructed images of tuxedo-clad men walking into luxurious casinos and betting outrageous sums of money while beautiful women hang all over them. Casino gambling is not what it used to be (in reality, it never really was). Innovations like internet gambling in Canada, Europe and the US have made gambling much more broadly accessible.

The availability of gaming services to a wider spectrum of people can be seen in a variety of ways. The most important indicator is the emergence of women as a large part of the gambling market. They tend to flock toward different forms of gaming than men, but they certainly enjoy gaming. Statistics show that in developed countries women are almost as likely to gamble as men. And I don’t just mean your grandma socializing at the bingo hall. I mean real gambling for real money.

The numbers don’t lie

The gambling gap between women and men is closing fast. Traditional estimates assumed that women were on average only 33 percent as likely to gamble regularly than men. However, most observers now think that the number of male gamblers is not significantly higher than that of their female counterparts.

The current state of poker is a prime example of the growing trend. The game conjures the image of smoke-filled European or American poker rooms crowded with old-fashioned good ol’ boys. The movement toward online poker is breaking this perception. While recent estimates say that only about 10 percent of land-based poker patrons are female, the proportion of female online poker players has jumped up to roughly one-third.

There is also a downside to the trend. One study reported that between the 45-64 age group, women are more likely to be addicted to gambling then men. But as long as women (as well as men) choose to gamble responsibly and get help if needed, making the gambling market more accessible can continue to be a good thing.

So, what do they play?

• The traditional gap between male and female participation is gambling has narrowed specifically

• It is estimated that currently 33 percent of online poker players are women

• The online revolution has made gambling services more accessible to women

Women are more likely to engage in what is called “escape gambling.” This involved passive games designed to relieve stress. Many argue that while men tend to gamble with the intention of winning money, women generally see it as a leisure activity. Some examples of games popular with women include slots, video poker, bingo and lottery. While men more often frequent operations like betting shops and land-based casinos, online casinos in the UK and other places are more popular with women.

You can see the contrast in how the different sites present themselves. Sports betting sites cater to men by generally displaying a black background and photos of beautiful big-breasted women. Online poker sites usually do the same. They emphasize what men associate with gambling: money, power, and female attention.

But try visiting an online casino or online bingo site and see what you find. It most likely will not be busty females. One site, GamblingGirl, even features pictures of freakishly muscular shirtless men. It even has a link to a site called HunkMania: Certified Hunks. This site is more the exception than the rule.

Most female gamblers patronize online casinos and bingo sites which advertise in more subtle ways than sites designed for men. Generally these sites invoke fun more than money and sex. UK Casino for example features a soft purple background overlaid with the British coat of arms (patriotic and classy, huh?). There is a handsome suit-clad man telling you about the options offered by the site, but he is in fact wearing a shirt.

Driving forces behind the change

There are a range of explanations why women gamble in higher numbers today than they have in the past. The first is that the social stigma attached to women gamblers has begun to erode. Decades ago in most societies it would not have been acceptable for women to gamble. As in many other aspects of society, clearly-defined gender roles are not valued as they used to be.

Another factor is the fundamental difference between online and mobile casino gambling and their traditional land-based counterpart. The new interactive gambling and betting platforms are anonymous. A woman (or man, for that matter) can gamble outside of the eye of the community if she chooses to.

While the world of gambling is becoming more open to women, it is still pervaded by old-fashioned masculine attitudes. Online gambling allows women to engage in the activities that they enjoy without having to face the sometimes unwelcoming attitudes of male players.

Poker commentator Chip Westley summed this up perfectly:

One final reason many women prefer to play online has to do with the boorish attitudes of some male players. Whether it’s the overbearing bigot, the solicitous suitor, or the patronizing patriarch; women just don’t want to be bothered with all that.

There is another, much simpler explanation as well. This goes for all gamblers, not just women. Online platforms are much more convenient than brick-and-mortar establishments. Imagine deciding to spend an evening at a casino this weekend. You have to drive to the nearest establishment which may be hours away. It also involves dressing appropriately, waiting for a table, tipping waiters, and refraining from drinking if you want to be sure to get home safely.

Now contrast all of that with the convenience of logging on after a long day at work. You can wear what you want to wear, drink as much or as little as you wish, no waiting, no tipping, nothing to slow you down. Now is it obvious why more women are gambling than ever before?

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