More women are trying online gambling or gambling for the first time, a phenomenon that will need to be thoroughly researched in the coming years, researcher Sylvia Kairouz says.
A 2021 study of 4,500 Quebecers found that a greater proportion of women reported starting to gamble online or that they migrated to online gambling during the COVID-19 pandemic, although their male counterparts are more likely to indulge in such activities.
While gambling has generally been associated with men, women are not immune to addiction to problematic habits, said Kairouz, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University. Kairouz interviewed around 100 study participants and noted distinct trends between women and men, particularly with respect to the type of games they prefer.
“Women end up with totally random games, while men are more likely to go for poker and table games. By making these choices and having these tastes, the risk is much greater for women,” Kairouz said.
Research indicates that women frequently use slot machines, “scratchers” and lottery tickets as a means of escape, relaxation and to withdraw from reality. Men tend to seek thrilling gaming experiences, while women tend to opt for longer games with lower stakes.
“Often, they will tell us: ‘We feel a little hypnotized when we play … we decompress.’ That’s why they like scratchers — especially those that take a long time to scratch — and slot machines,” said Anne Elizabeth Lapointe, general manager of addiction treatment centre Maison Jean Lapointe.
Statistics Canada data from August 2022 shows that higher proportions of women than men reported playing bingo.
The survey noted that among people who gambled in the 12 months preceding the surveys, two per cent of men and about one per cent of women were at moderate to high risk of developing addiction problems. That translates to around 304,000 Canadians.
“Women often make fewer requests for help than men in terms of dependency,” Lapointe said. “They are still very stigmatized, yet they are clearly targeted by the industry, whether it is alcohol or something else. … What stops women is a lot of shame and guilt.”
Although the gap in participation in online games is narrowing between the women and men, research models have focused on men. Women are underrepresented in surveys and their results tend to be generalized. Kairouz says the phenomenon of addiction in women must be targeted in studies.
“If you don’t make a distinction with women, the data reflects the male reality much more. … We know the experience of women is totally different: the meaning they give to the game and the function of escape and compensation in their lives are much more present,” she said.
The next survey will take place from April to September, “which will allow us to paint a more complete portrait of the situation over a period of more than two years.”
“It’s really one of my lines of research, the relationship between gender and play. We will be able to observe the trajectories of the participants, and if they are the same for men and women. The gender dimension is going to be extremely important for us,” she said.
This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.
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