Gambling harm and women

Why are we considering women and gambling harm separately?

Gambling is sometimes seen as an activity that mostly men participate in, but it is common among women in Scotland and the gap between men and women’s participation is narrowing. In 2021 over half of women in Scotland (56%) participated in gambling.

There is an increase in women gambling with a telescopic projection in comparison to men, which means that they reach a high level of gambling harm a lot quicker than men from the point of their first gamble. Gambling harm is highly stigmatised, and this is true even more so for women. Women are potentially less likely to approach services due to:

  • Fear and stigma surrounding seeking support as they perceive that they have failed in their societal, traditional caring role
  • Fear that their children will be taken off of them
  • Fear of being exploited by people
  • Fear of experiencing physical, verbal or sexual abuse

The gambling industry systematically targets women through advertising. The gambling industry allegedly paid blogs to link new mothers to online games, exploiting women at a time when they are at high risk for postnatal depression, loneliness and isolation due to new routines and experiences in their lives. Television advertisements during the day are aimed at women encouraging community and friendship as a part of gambling - women are more likely to be unemployed than men and therefore more likely to be at home isolated during the day.

In comparison to men, women are more likely to be an affected other from someone else’s gambling. There are strong links between gambling and:

  • Economic coercion
    1 in 10 women have debts put in their name by a partner because they are too afraid to say no
  • Domestic abuse and Inter Partner Violence
    Where gender information was recorded, around four-in-five incidents of domestic abuse in 2021-22 involved a female victim

A roundtable by the Scottish Women’s Convention found that many women who participate in gambling activities do not consider themselves ‘gamblers’ - rather they see these activities as normalised social pastimes.

When speaking to women about their gambling it could be handy to speak about ‘attending the bingo’ or ‘playing the slots on your phone’ to prompt conversation.