Interestingly, the adverts aimed at women avoid at all costs any reference to gambling as a solo pursuit. They’re all about gal pals out on a night together, high heels, pink open-topped cars, girly games, glitzy night-clubs, polished dance floors, cocktails and a weirdly sexy, dancing man-Fox
. The message is always the same: that gambling is a risk-free party game where you can lose your inhibitions and win money, all in the company of your mates
, or perhaps good old, trustworthy, salt of the earth landlady, Babs Windsor.
These techniques are working. According to
the Gambling Commission Report, women now account for 25% of gambling addicts, although it is thought that proportion is far higher when it comes to online gambling.
Sophie*, 27, a recently qualified doctor, is the personification of the type of woman the gambling industry is currently targeting – young (so potentially a customer with longevity), gainfully employed, and well paid. Her story mirrors one you see frequently on forums on Gambler’s Anonymous
– she was a bit lonely, and bored and started out gambling as a bit of fun.
“When I was training to be a doctor, the hours were so long and gruelling, I had no social life and it destroyed my relationship with my long-term boyfriend who was a DJ and whose life was at polar odds with mine. The house was empty when I got home and I couldn’t sleep, so I started playing casino type games for fun. I won quite a lot of money quite quickly, which was a buzz. But the more I played, the more money I lost. In a fortnight, I blew close to £8000 and kept trying to win it back – without success.”
Sophie admits to still gambling “occasionally” and still having “some debt” but tries to keep her online gambling restricted to one day a week.
Alison's* story, 26, was more extreme. She had her children quite young (at 21 and 22.) Her husband earned a good wage, but travelled a lot as he worked in sales. The new responsibility, and monotony of raising small children, often solo, weighed heavily on Alison and like Sophie, she started playing “harmless” games online to “blow off steam.”
She had soon racked up £40,000 of debt on credit cards and in loans – all without the knowledge of her husband. It all came to a head when the bailiffs came calling over Sunday lunch, while her in-laws were in attendance. She recalls: "I got found out in the most devastating way. It’s taken three years to begin to pay back my debt, let alone try and rebuild my marriage. My husband probably would have left me were it not for the children. We have no computers, laptops or smart phones in the house. I have an ancient flip phone with no internet! But whenever I see an advert on television, I still get that familiar itch.”