New research carried out by gambling specialist Heather Wardle, the former head of gambling research at the social research institute NatCen, gave an exclusive report to media this week, indicating that now women under 35, are starting to gamble and at an earlier age than their older counterparts, and showing increasing interest in online games and betting. They are the new cross-section of players emerging in the market.
The studies showed that compared to women from older generations, women under the age of 35 were far more likely to be gambling, especially online, than a few years ago. This is a new market many online games can promote themselves to, and mostly online gamblers are male 18-45.
Ms Wardle, a data-mapping specialist, who now heads the Gambling & Place Research Hub at Geofutures, reported: “[These women] are taking part in more gambling activities, gamble more frequently.” Along with gambling other services will also have to be offered as they are to men. Now services for gambling problems and addictions will too have to cater their services to a new cross-section of society.
Liz Karter, author of the book ‘Women and Problem Gambling’ and an addiction therapist at Level Ground Therapy, says: “I am seeing a lot of young professional women coming forward now.” With gambling becoming more socially acceptable, a lot more women admit that they like gambling online.
Her studies reveal that social and environmental factors may be playing a decisive role in the increase in female gamblers. Gambling and betting among women was more common in the 1950s but that changed from 1960 onwards. Ms Wardle says: “Betting shops were set up as very male spaces which excluded women.” But with the advent of online bingo and gaming, betting and poker has particularly, among gambling companies become a popular format to target women, and is thus creating a broader female market.
King Digital Entertainment is a developer of a female-friendly online game called Candy Crush, which recently reached “a new quarterly high of 1.5 billion average daily game plays”, according to its 2014 annual report. Candy Crush Saga is a puzzle game, particularly enjoyed by women, in which players have to build up sets of red jelly beans and other candies and avoid a complicated set of obstacles on a grid. Ms Karter wrote: “It’s very easy to make the transition from playing a social game online – such as Candy Crush – to spending money, initially, only a few dollars on online bingo.” This easy transition is how gambling companies access the new market of female players. That means the market has to adapt to women’s needs and desires in how they want to play.
In her experience, Karter says that there are fundamental differences between male and female gamblers. “Men are much more likely to talk of the buzz of gambling,” she says. “With women, it’s almost always about trying to get away from things they don’t want to feel. For women, it’s almost always motivated by challenges in relationships.” Women tend to like to gamble in private, which means on a mobile phone or an iPad, when they are alone. The social implications that Karters sees is the effects it can have in female relationships and communication, “I am seeing women who are losing the ability to engage healthily face-to-face,” she says. “To sit and look someone in the eye is becoming a lost art.” For this reason, with the new demand and new market of female players the market must also adapt services for women, so they can gamble responsibly and have a good time.
Not a lot of research has been carried out so far into the implications of online gambling among younger women – but the trends detected by Ms Wardle, the Gambling Commission and Ms Karter are emerging. In terms of developing services in tandem with games targeting the female market, Ms Karter says: “We need to teach people that the odds of getting addicted to gambling – if you are playing to change your mood – are very, very high.”
So, with the new developments come new challenges for the online gambling industry who must now take a gender angle on their market if they want to have a mature and stable audience to offer their games to.