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The Unseen Iceberg of Gambling Addiction Issue Among Women

According to The Guardian, the number of women in the UK reporting a gambling problem has literally doubled compared to the number of men over the past five years.  

GamCare, the program which runs the national gambling helpline, also revealed that the number of women reporting gambling problems has risen by a third in just five short years. It says this rise is directly linked to the easy access that women have to online gambling sites on their smartphones. 

As sexist as this may sound, in the not-too-distant past, if a woman wanted to gamble, she’d need to leave her family, possibly her kids as well, and head into the male-dominated world of bookmakers and casinos.

With the growth in online and mobile gambling in the past decade, female gamblers don’t need to brave bookies, casinos and arcades. Instead, they can gamble in the peace and privacy of their own homes or place of work.  It comes as no surprise that 70% of female gamblers use websites and apps to enjoy their gambling entertainment. 

Growth in Problem Gambling Numbers

But with the growing accessibly comes the growing number of problem gamblers among men and women alike. 

Experts believe, however, that the number of women problem gamblers reported – around 75,000 in the UK – is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are a lot more that don’t seek help or take advantage of responsible gambling tools.

The Guardian quotes Ian Semel, head of the charity Breakeven, which supports gambling addicts in the UK.

“There’s such a stigma for women gamblers,” he says. “Society has very clear gender roles for women and expectations that they’ll be the caregivers.” 

He also adds that breaching these traditional roles lead to “judgement, exposure, shame and guilt” among women who develop problem gambling habits.

The Difference Between Men and Women Gamblers

Many studies have been made about women gamblers. It has been shown that women and men develop gambling problems for different reasons. 

While men usually get addicted to the rush of adrenaline and the drive to win, women are more addicted to the feelings of escapism, distraction and stress-reduction that gambling brings them. 

Experts say that female addicts finds that gambling soothes them and even numbs the pain. They may be suffering from an abusive marriage, be unhappy in their job or insecure in their private lives. 

Typically, female gambling addicts choose quick, high-stakes casino games such as bingo or slots.

Coronavirus Exacerbates the Problem

According to the latest figures by the UK Gambling Commission, there has been a dramatic spike in online gambling in the past year due, in part, to the restrictions placed on brick-and-mortar casinos across the nation during corona lockdown. 

The biggest operators reported up to 30% more yield last year, with gamblers seeking safer ways to have a flutter or spin the reels.

But among the many millions who gambled online in the UK, some also did so to escape the issues that the pandemic brought with it – loneliness, social alienation, financial woes and depression.  Many of these were women.

Importance of Responsible Gambling Measures

The UK Gambling Commission has several measures in place to ensure that players have access to the tools they need should they feel that they’re developing a gambling problem. There are some gaming companies such as 918kiss that try to reduce the amount of gaming that their patrons do, to avoid addiction.

These include GAMSTOP, a free service that lets players put controls in place to help restrict their online activities.  By opting in to GAMSTOP, players are essentially prevented from using sites and apps run by UK licensed companies for a set period of time, determined by the players themselves.

Support can also be found at the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133), which provides confidential advice, as well as practical and emotional support to anyone experiencing problems with gambling. 

GAMCARE also provides confidential online support and free counselling, as does Gamblers Anonymous. 

Practical Measures

Women who feel that they’re on a downward spiral with their gambling habits, should contact any of the above as soon as possible to get the support they need.

But it’s also possible to prevent gambling from becoming an addiction in the first place.

Some of the more practical measures include:

  • Install software such as adblockers to reduce gambling advertising that you see online.
  • Delete gambling apps from your phone or other mobile devices.
  • Unsubscribe from any emails sent by gambling companies.
  • Unfollow gambling sites on social media.
  • Take advantage of self-exclusion services.
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