Gambling is a public health issue in New Zealand and despite the strict regulation as well as many policies to regulate this activity, female problem gamblers have increased substantially.

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Contrary to the commonly-held view, women's gambling participation and problems are steadily increasing in this country. In fact, women have higher levels of gambling involvement in Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM) and online casino games, whereas men prefer to engage in the activities like in-person casino gambling, sports betting, and horse racing.

Kiwi women are reported more psychological distress than men which is a factor of gambling-related harms. These women are impacted by gambling not only as gamblers but also as affected others. How does gender inequality contribute to gambling harm for women?

The key reasons that a chunk of women gamble

The female Kiwis' gambling problems are a multi-faceted phenomena. According to a report, women gamble to a similar extent to men but these women gamblers are more likely to become addicted, particularly in community-based gambling.

Unlike men who are more likely to gamble in any of the top 10 casinos in New Zealand with traditional gambling activities, they prefer to gamble EGM as they are easier to access. Online gambling activities are also appealing among women as they allow them to play secretly. Here are the factors that can contribute to their gambling participation:

Wives of pathological gamblers

Some women in New Zealand have been described as ‘needy enablers’ since the 1950s because they are married to alcoholic and gambler husbands and despite their sufferings, their marriage endured. Although the wives of the compulsive gamblers, actually, face financial and emotional burdens, they tend to endure long marriages.

The reasons they give for staying married no matter what their husbands do are inexplicable to the societies and as gamblers' wives, they are more likely to face social difficulties. This means that those who are experiencing disordered relationships or domestic violence often turn to gamble.

As their refuge, they tend to play online casino games or visit gambling venues in local communities. These Kiwi women who are affected by gambling harm experience stress and disappointment.

Gambling is an effective means of diversion

The fact associated with female gambling practices is different compared to males. In the family, they are stereotypically and traditionally expected to take care of children, clean the houses, and have to struggle with daily problems, though the rise of feminism is hopefully bringing a close to many of those expectations.

So, many want to forget their daily stress and other problems through gambling activities.

Online slot machines are the most attractive games since they come with bright and appealing colours and themes. Moreover, online bingo, video poker, and other games involve no skills. Though gambling offers them respite, comfort, and distraction, they increase the risk of experiencing gambling-related problems.

Addressing gambling harm for women in New Zealand

As gambling problems are much more hidden for New Zealand women, encouraging them to feel comfortable to ask for help is crucial. In this country, female gambling problems should be treated as an individual issue and public health crisis. 

This means that the gambling harm should be assessed at individual and population levels in order to address gambling problems. Based on AUT Gambling and Addictions Research study, here are the practical ways to help women with a gambling problem:

EGM in communities should be reduced

EGM or Electronic Gaming Machine can be found in casinos and community venues allowing people to play anytime. According to the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), New Zealand EGM gambling constitutes around 40% of the Kiwis’ total gambling expenditure.

Nonetheless, these machines can contribute to excess consumption meaning a risk factor for gambling addiction. Limiting the number of gaming machines is an effective option for preventing gambling problems.

Promoting gender equality

Promoting gender equality for the prevention and reduction of gambling harm among women can also be a relevant solution. Since the women perform the role of wives or partners who have to keep the house and take care of the kids, the gender roles influence them in every aspect of life.

The public stigma of women problem gambling is a barrier for these compulsive gamblers to seek help.

Supporting new and creative policies to encourage gender equality in New Zealand families can, thus, minimize and prevent women’s gambling harm.