AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 05.04.2022 · last updated 05.04.2022

While it’s true that women in the UK have the same gambling opportunities as their male counterparts, convention still sees gambling as something that fits more in the male arena. There are predominantly more male oriented sports, for one thing, and it will take time for the traditional ‘unofficial’ male only environments of the high street bookmaker to shake off such an old/fashioned image.

Casinos, on the other hand, do their best to create an atmosphere that attracts and indeed welcomes both men and women, and in terms of bricks & mortar gambling would appear to be the way forward.

But as far as online gambling is concerned, the industry paints an interesting picture in terms of the involvement of women. Being able to gamble in the comfort and safe confines of your own home, without having to even set foot out of the door, is always going to be a key factor in going down the super convenient online route. That counts for everyone, of course, but for women in particular has proved to be an especially important plus point.

Research carried out by the UK Gambling Commission has thrown light on women in online gambling, from numbers to preferences.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that it has been firmly established as a universally accepted, ‘normal’ part of British society for decades (not forgetting the vast sums raised for good causes), the National Lottery is the most popular gambling product among women.

The numbers might surprise many in being quite high, as women are in modern times becoming increasingly active across all forms of online gambling.

The Commission found that 42% of women had gambled during the previous four weeks. As well as the National Lottery (and other forms of lottery), other popular choices are scratch cards and, of course, bingo. The last-named and the National Lottery are good indicators of how online gambling offers what are becoming attractive alternative forms of traditional gambling pastimes (poker being an excellent example, with numbers that totally dwarf those seen nowadays in actual casinos and poker rooms). This latest survey shows such a trend, with more women forgoing the actual physical purchasing of tickets in favour of the internet to play the National Lottery, for example.

Meanwhile, other online gambling products are gaining traction with women, too.

Among women aged over 35, for example, there has been an increase in online gambling of 8% between 2017 and 2021. More specifically, those aged 35-54 appear most likely to gamble (32%), with the rate going down for both younger and older groups.

Note that younger women are more likely to play slot machines in arcades, for example, as well as bet privately among their friends.

One finding from the Commission’s survey that might spark debate about differences between men and women is that, regarding safer gambling, it was found that problem gambling and low risk rates were considerably lower among women (0.2%) than men (0.9%). However, moderate risk rates are roughly on a par with each other, at around 1.4% according to the survey.

On safer gambling, the Commission found that the problem gambling and low risk rates are lower than among men – at 0.2% and 0.9% respectively – although the moderate risk rate stands at 1.4%, more or less equal with that of men. But it does seem apparent that women tend to have greater ability to balance risk/entertainment than men.

Nevertheless, this is a serious subject that the industry should always address, as well as welcome relevant research and public awareness initiatives that aim to help the consumer. To this end, GambleAware launched a campaign in January to tackle the problems associated with problem gambling. Furthermore, the UK Gambling Commission intends to carry out more research into gambling’s potential impact on mental health and finances among women, both directly as a result of their own gambling, and through the gambling of others.

Combining future plans with the current quarterly telephone survey, the Commission intends to expand sample size in order to further underline the validity of any findings: “This will significantly enhance our ability to understand gambling behaviours amongst subgroups of the population, including women, and to enable us to better tell the stories of their experiences and identify ways that we can improve regulation and reduce gambling harm.”

The challenge the industry faces – both in the UK and elsewhere – is never going to be easy, but most would say that the domestic set-up is certainly going in the right direction regarding this and other key aspects.

Meanwhile, women continue to enjoy gambling in the UK, with an increasing number availing themselves of a smorgasbord of opportunities online.

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