Do We Need a Different Way to Help Women with Gambling Problems?

Are you a woman? In the past, I would have assumed most of you were men. That’s because gambling tends to be something we associate with men – from films like Casino Royale to Lock Stock to WSOP winners, there are barely any women in sight.

But in the past decade, more and more women have taken up gambling. With aspirational women like Victoria Cohen-Mitchell making a name for themselves within gambling circles, it’s fair to say that women are fast becoming mainstream gamblers, and I know that some of you reading this blog will be women.

With that said, the increase in the number of women gambling also means that there’s an increase in the number of women developing gambling problems. Now the industry is asking itself if we’re going enough to help them.

A few stats on women with gambling problems

According to GamCare, around 1 in 5 clients in their treatment centres are women. 30% of all callers to the National Gambling Helpline are women – around half of them are calling for advice about family and friends, the rest for advice about their own habits.

There’s some evidence that women have different patterns of gambling activity when compared to men, and that they don’t necessarily react the same way to awareness campaigns.

Why might women gamble?

Women are more likely to use gambling as a form of escapism. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to gamble for the thrill of risk-taking. Clearly, this isn’t always the case, individuals will gamble for personal reasons. Men will gamble for escapism and women will gamble for excitement. It’s just that each gender tends to lean towards one end more than the other.

But when you think about it, if women are less in it for the thrill, then some of the slogans used in gambling campaigns (e.g., “When the fun stops, stop“) won’t necessarily have the same impact on women as they do on men (if it works on anyone at all – there is some debate on that).

What sort of messages will help women who gamble too much?

Women need to be made more aware of the specialist services that exist for them. GamCare has a women’s programme tailored specifically to the different way that women gamble.  They also offer programmes to other affected groups, such as young people and prisoners.

Some argue that women feel more guilt about developing a gambling problem, and so are more reluctant to admit to the problem than men. Whilst we’re unsure of this claim, I think there’s no doubt that there’s a lot of shame felt by anyone looking for help.

Messages that can overcome the taboo associated with problem gambling should help more people to come forward and get help.

Who should be responsible for spreading these messages?

As well as organisations like GamCare, it’s up to casino operators and places like us to spread the word about the type of help that’s available for women.

That’s what we’ve done with this blog. You can read more about the Women’s Programme offered by GamCare here.


A woman in silhouette against an orange dusky background