Women & Problem Gambling: The Hidden Addiction Posted On

For years, problem gambling affected significantly more men than it did women, but that’s no longer true. That gap is closing, as the rate at which women are meeting the criteria for pathological gambling is accelerating.

In fact, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling, among problem gamblers ages 45 to 64, women outnumber men!

How Women Gamble

According to Sam Skolnik, author of “High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America’s Gambling Addiction,” the types of bets placed most often vary by gender. Quoted in NY Daily News,

“men are more likely to be ‘action gamblers,’ meaning they prefer games that involve skill… while women tend to be ‘escape gamblers,’ meaning they’re more drawn to machines that are based on luck to distract themselves from problems in their personal life.”

For many women, it’s more important that they escape from realities that often contain abuse or neglect and loneliness than it is to win money. Playing games such as slot machines that encourage repetitive actions allow women to zone in only on the game itself – and nothing around them. Unlike when men bet on sports games that are a few days away or a few hours in length, these gambling options – lottery tickets, video poker, bingo – offer quick wins and losses, allowing the next game or bets to be placed in rapid succession.

Addiction and Women

Though women have moved far beyond traditional roles, many people still tend to think of women as caretakers, homemakers and mothers, and for some, picturing women with addiction is not as easy as picturing men with addiction. The lack of recognition that addictions caused by drugs, alcohol and gambling affect women sometimes makes it difficult for women to express their issues to family members and friends.

According to a report by Suzanne Koch Eckenrode, MFT, titled “Problem Gambling and Women,” women begin gambling at an average age of 34.2 years versus 20.4 for men. While women tend to be older when they begin gambling frequently, the addiction becomes problematic faster than it does for men. And as the addiction worsens and debt accumulates faster, so to is the speed at which women need to reach out for help from treatment centers.

Despite still making up a slightly smaller portion of problem gamblers than men, women are now more equally represented in treatment centers, support groups and one-on-one counseling sessions, as Rod Correa, CASAC-G, told KnowTheOdds when discussing the demographics of problem gamblers he sees.

The Consequences of the “Hidden” Gambling of Women

Because the solitary “escape” gambling of women is often done unseen to others, the consequences can escalate before family members and friends even realize there is a need to seek help. This “hidden addiction” goes unnoticed as women gamble online in their homes, purchase lottery tickets while grocery shopping or seek the slot machines of the local casino, well-lit and patrolled by security, thus safe to visit alone.

For many women, there comes a time when their gambling can no longer be hidden due to financial or legal trouble. This can lead to a dramatic time for family members who find out savings are gone and property is at-risk. Trust can be lost and be replaced by anger, and good relationships can be lost. Legal troubles can cost more money and may lead to time in jail, especially if actions included fraud and embezzlement.

Finding Help for Your Problem Gambling Addiction

Help is available. The goal of KnowTheOdds is to make sure men and women know that gambling can be treated. There are counselors throughout New York State trained and certified in the area of gambling addiction, ready to help you on your road to recovery.

If you need help, call the NYS HOPEline today. Our professionals are available 24/7 to provide advice and support, as well as point you to help in your county.

Call 1-877-8-HOPENY (that is 1-877-846-7369).