We surveyed the position of leading women in gaming legislation and regulation, and found mixed results.
We now know that attitudes toward women in the gaming industry have changed drastically over the past few decades. More importantly, more and more women now see the activity as a legitimate pastime, not just a hideout for men. We have heard the voices of female gaming executives and gamblers.
There is another side to the story which we haven’t yet heard. As legislative and regulatory battles rage in many countries, the treatment of gambling my female legislators is very important. This is especially significant in the United States, which could be the world’s largest gaming market but restrictive American gambling laws limit the amount of legal options available.
What we find is interesting and unexpected. One would probably expect the attitudes of politicians to reflect the attitudes of women in general. As the case of online casinos in New Jersey will show, that is not always a safe assumption.
Female legislators in America
• Female legislators are more likely than male legislators to support legalization in the US, despite women still being less likely to gamble
• In New Jersey 67 percent of women expressed opposition to the legalization of online gambling
• The IAGR chose Susan Hensel as its president in 2012, a major step for promoting the visibility of women in the industry
First, it should be noted that most proponents of legal gambling in the US are members of the Democratic Party. More women vote Democrat than for any other party. Of the current 99 female legislators in the US federal government, 76 are Democrats. Female state legislators (which actually have more influence over gambling laws) also tend to be Democrats.
While there is probably not a close connection between female voters and legalization of online gambling sites in America or other forms of gambling, we can safely assume that female legislators are more likely than men to support it. Which is surprising, because women are still less likely to gamble.
Some prominent females in the group include Senfronia Thompson of Texas. While not a proponent of gambling on a personal level, Thompson sees casinos as a way to bring tourists into the state, raising tax revenue and helping small businesses. These views echo those of most anti-prohibition legislators.
Some female politicians are harder to pin down. California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the most visible female politician in America, has taken a complicated stance on gambling. In 2003 she voted against the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, which would have made it illegal for banks to process transactions involving online gambling.
This would indicate Pelosi as a supporter of legal, regulated gambling. However, in 2006 she voted in favor of the Internet Gambling Bill, which reinforced the financial sanctions on online sites as well as blocked sites operating without recognized licenses. This makes her position more nuanced. For this female politician, one can’t say clearly whether she supports legal gambling or not.
The curious case of online casinos in New Jersey
New Jersey legalized online casinos last year. Interestingly enough, a poll from March 2013 showed that the majority of citizens opposed the measure. This shows that government officials put the need for tax revenue before the wishes of the majority of the public. The bill has big implications for the connection between women politicians and women in general on the gambling issue.
The bill was supported primarily by Democrats. As stated earlier, women in government tend to be Democrats, so in this case female legislators tended to vote for legalization. Some examples of female Democrats who voted for legalization of online casinos last year include Mila Jasey and Angelica Jimenez. The bill was opposed by Republican Mary Angelini.
Even more intriguing is the share of women who opposed legalization. A reported 67 percent of women in the state thought that online casinos in America would be bad for New Jersey. This is contrast to about half of men. A previous piece in this series stated that online casinos are more likely to be frequented by women than other gambling establishments. The case of New Jersey doesn’t quite fit that observation.
One could make the argument that many of these women who outwardly oppose legalization gamble behind closed doors. Certainly some of them do. This is a likely scenario, however. While women now gamble nearly as much as men, fewer of them feel comfortable discussing it openly. And as mothers, many women feel a strong obligation to protect people from potentially harmful activities like online gambling.
And let’s not miss the fact that 33 percent of women didn’t oppose legalization. That’s a major change over past years. This case shows that women and gambling have progressed immensely in recent decades. It also shows that things have a long way to go. That sums up the current state of women and gambling in general, doesn’t it?
Susan Hensel of the IAGR
Enough about legislators, regulators are just as important. In 2012 the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) made gambling news by naming Susan Hensel as its president. She was the first ever female president of the association. Before that she has been chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
The IAGR promotes effective regulation across the world by providing a forum for different national regulators to exchange information and ideas. Having a female president is big for expanding their participation in the industry, as Hensel meets regularly with major industry figures from around the world. Her appointment could be a big step for women in the industry.
What to look for in the future?
We found that in many cases female politicians are more likely to support gambling than their demographic in general. The case of New Jersey illustrated that voters can often be more inclined toward prohibition than the legislators who represent them. As more and more women engage in the activity and traditional gender stereotypes break down, we may see and even bigger push toward legalization.