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Gender Differences in Gambling: How Have they Changed?

Find out which gender gambles more and other amazing differences.

Online gambling has exploded in popularity and it’s no secret that both men and women enjoy placing bets on their favorite games, sports and activities. In fact, the average woman online casino player will spend an estimated 21 months of gambling in her lifetime, while the average male will spend about 14 months gambling in his lifetime.

With that in mind, did you know that there are notable gender differences in gambling?  Gambling is no longer only a man’s world and according to experts, there are gender and gambling differences in regard to participation, playing preferences, influences, motivations and even problem gambling.

Participation: who gambles more men or women

Men gamble more than women. This fact is as true today as it has been for centuries. However, in ten years from now if you were to ask which gender gambles more, the answer may not be the same. The reason is that with the growing popularity of online gambling, women have taken a much more active role in the gambling industry, dramatically boosting their participation in the activity. As a result, the participation gap between the genders has significantly narrowed.

In fact, a “Trends in Gambling Behavior 2008 - 2014” study, which was prepared for the UK Gambling Commission by a team of researchers from Databuild Research & Solutions, found that the gender differences in gambling was at its lowest point (57.8% of men and 55.3% of women) from March 2012 to June 2012, due to a steady rise in female gambling participation rate. Be that as it may, on the whole, in terms of participation in remote gambling, men continue to contribute to its growth on a larger scale than women.

Playing preferences: cards vs. slots

Studies reveal that slots and bingo games are preferred by women, while card games like poker and blackjack as well as sports betting continue to be the betting activities favored by men. In spite of these trends, according to Dr. Deborah K. Phillips, co-editor of the book “Gambling and Gender: Men and Women at Play”, the trend of slots being a predominantly female-favored gambling pastime may be changing.

In an interview with VegasMaster Phillips explained that “From my research in my book where I observed people playing slot machines across several casinos over several days, there was an increasing number of men playing slot machines (36.5 percent) and 63.5 percent females.”

She also said that “Earlier research seems to suggest that males are more likely to favor card games while women play slot machines but I think that I am observing more and more males playing slot machines. I wonder if one reason is because the slot machines have become more sophisticated--often resembling some of the earlier types of video games with all their special features or levels. Also the animation, graphics and sounds have really improved from the simple fruit themed slot machines with very few sounds. Also my research was looking at preferences of males and female to play certain types of slot machines (there are a variety of themes, supernatural, movie, television shows, animals, etc).”

I think that I am observing more and more males playing slot machines. I wonder if one reason is because the slot machines have become more sophisticated--often resembling some of the earlier types of video games

Be that as it may, Phillips was quick to point out that women continue to favor the slots over other forms of gambling.

“I think I still see more women playing the slot machines than card games,” Phillips observed. “In my survey of college students, I had a response from a female student who said she preferred to play slots because she didn't have to interact with "intimidating gambler types" and others implied that the machines were easier than to try to play the card games.”

That being said, Phillips did note that her research has primarily been focused on slot machines and video poker machines and stated that she hopes to extend her research into more of the table play and bingo games.

The driving force: influences and motivations

From friends to TV ads, different factors motivate men and women to gamble. According to the Women and Gambling paper from Dr. Anna Thomas - Senior Research Fellow and Manager, Australian Gambling Research Centre, Australian Institute of Family Studies - a key explanation for the gender differences in gambling stems from what males and females are taught at a young age. For instance, boys are generally taught to be competitive and to take risks while girls learn to socialize and be cooperative. This may explain why certain types of games tend to be marketed to and/or appeal to one gender over another.

Studies have shown that the two main reasons why men choose to gamble is “the rush” associated with winning and the “competitiveness” they enjoy when playing a skill-oriented game. On the flip side of the coin, the two main reasons for women are to “let off steam” and enjoying the “social aspects” of gambling. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that gambling companies base their business models on these generalizations and market to each gender accordingly.

The Online Casino Reports Blog “Online Gambling: Men v Women” reveals that today’s television advertising for online gambling in the UK is targeted to different genders at different times of the day. For instance, ads for bingo tend to run during the daytime and target women, while ads for sportsbooks typically air during the evening and target the male market. Yet, interestingly, ads for online casinos seem to target both genders equally.  

Problem gambling: addiction is growing among women

Gambling addiction was once a problem that was most commonly seen in men. However, due to an increase in women engaging in online gambling, more female players are at risk of developing problem gambling habits. GamCare has reported that gambling addiction has been on a steady rise among women for the past few years.

Why the sudden increase? Liz Karter, an expert in female addiction explained that “Instead of going out drinking, women are coming home from work and switching on the PC. Many are in demanding careers and want to be able to escape at the end of the day while remaining in control in a way they would not be after drinking or taking drugs. Then they can return to the real world and there are no side effects – only later do the problems really start when the habit sets in.”

Such observations reveal that gambling addiction for women is just as much of a problem as it is and has been for men.

The bottom line: There are many gender differences in gambling and while men continue to gamble just as much as they did before, women are gambling now more than ever before.