Typically we are led to believe that gambling, like playing poker or roulette, is primarily a man’s game. But interesting research statistics coming out of The University of Queensland show women are now more at risk of developing a serious gambling problem, and are becoming addicted, isolated and even suicidal.
Dr Timothy Lee, a lecturer from the University of Queensland, says that gambling in Australia is becoming more and more ‘feminised’.
Australia leads the world when it comes to the number of poker machines it has across the country, and Australians push a whopping $12billion dollars through the pokies a year – a high proportion of these players are women.
Studies show that one third of problem gamblers are women. “It means measures taken to combat problem gambling need to take into account the habits of women, not just men, and the image of the typical Australian gambler should change. It has traditionally been a male pursuit. There is now a high level of women’s gambling activity in Australia,” Dr Lee said.
The statistics show that women accounted for 64 per cent of the use of poker machines, which in turn accounted for 74 per cent of the growth in gambling in Australia in recent years. When comparing the gambling habits of women and men, women were found to have a more rapid progression into problem gambling.
Problem gambling can come at a great cost, and for many women it results in family and relationship breakdowns, child neglect, homelessness, depression, theft, fraud and serious contemplation of suicide.
In the report from the University of Queensland, it became evident that women had taken up gambling to escape relationships, trauma, loneliness, stress and boredom.
Some women were in an abusive relationship, which they wanted to flee, and gambling provided them with a sense of escape. Other triggers found to increase women’s attraction to gambling included a child leaving home or the death of a close friend or family member.
Some of the feelings that female problem gamblers report include extreme guilt, shame and low self-esteem. Often female problem gamblers are withdrawn and socially isolated.
Dr Lee believes that the numbers of female problem gamblers will increase as the gaming industry expands. He does not advocate a winding back of gaming activities, but believes harm minimisation actions are needed to stop more people becoming problem gamblers.
“It is crucial, therefore, that the impacts of women problem gamblers are assessed and recommendations put forward and acted upon to reduce these impacts.”
Dr Lee has made some recommendations which form part of a paper: “Distinctive Features of the Australian Gambling Industry and Problems Faced by Australian Women Gamblers”. His recommendations on harm minimisation include placing cash machines away from gaming areas, installing clocks, providing information on support services, using natural light and having non-gaming activities at pubs and clubs with poker machines.