FRM IRC NEWSLETTER
15 February 2021

Boredom, enjoyment, camaraderie listed as reasons for females gambling more often

On this Valentine’s weekend, lady jockey Jamie Kah won her fourth Group 1 race, the Black Caviar Lightning Sprint at Flemington in Australia.

Also Down Under, Serena Williams outlasted her big-hitting younger rival Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday in a three-set thriller to make the Australian Open quarterfinals, keeping her chase for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title on track.

At Juddmonte Farms in the UK, super stallion Kingman (Invincible Spirit) visited Enable (Nathaniel), and things got so heated the star mare succumbed to his charms. The amorous guy managed some leg over, or shall we say legs up, on their first date!

That much success, love, and female spirit in the air, goes with today’s theme of ‘female gamblers’.

It was widely reported in 2020 that gambling among women was growing at more than twice the rate of men.

The media has focused on gambling addiction among females growing in relation to this, of course not a nice word reported, but addiction goes with the territory in all high-risk or high-adrenaline activities.

For millions of existing male gamblers, increased female activity means bigger betting pools and undoubtedly more fun and camaraderie as their lady counterparts come out of the gambling closet.

The gambling boom was kicked off when Tony Blair’s Labour government passed the Gambling Act 2005, dramatically liberalising the laws governing betting.

The industry exploded with turnover as a result, and now takes approximately £15-billion from UK punters alone, every year – equal to more than £200 from every man, woman and child in the UK – with the online sector growing particularly fast.

Some betting bosses have made vast fortunes. The Bet365 boss Denise Coates has received more than half a billion pounds in salary and dividends in the past two years. The Betfred bosses Fred and Peter Done have a combined fortune of more than £1.25bn.

The main reason for the increased number of females entering the gambling arena is said to be the increased number of free slot machine games that became available online from around 2015 onwards.

So we literally have a case of ‘bored housewives’ entertaining themselves with the slots online while hubby is out at the track or the casino, before moving on to the real thing, online, and then a further move out to casinos, racetracks or gambling halls.

Th online slots phenomenon is said to have intensified during Covid-19, with masses of people sitting at home, with not much to do. Now, 70% of female gamblers use apps and websites.

The Guardian, as they sometimes do, produced a few ‘psychological’ factors to explain why some women develop the gambling habit. Their three main factors were:

Excitement: This goes back to the glitz and glamour of social gambling. The rush from winning creates the additional anticipation of something bigger.

Social aspects: Women tend to prefer gambling socially. Whether it’s to feel safer, less pressured, or even so they can catch up with friends while playing, women do not like to sit in silence at the casino.

Wanting To Escape: Women tend to internalise a lot of their stress and disappointment. Slot machines with their bright, fantastical colours and themes are by nature designed to entertain, and create a sense of ‘escape.

We’re not sure why all the above would pertain to women only – social commentators have a knack of over-analysing things – and IRC member and novice punter Josie West from Sheffield had a chuckle when she spoke to us on Sunday, saying: “I’m not sure about those findings. I cannot see myself sitting ‘typically’ on the sofa at home playing free online games and getting addicted.”

She added: “What about simply having fun? I’d never taken a bet in my life until last October when I went to a dog-race meeting with a friend. I really liked it and, back home, I started watching more sports and also horse racing.

“One day on Sky Sports I saw there was a race meeting on from my native South Africa and I watched a few races and loved it. I opened an online betting account and since then I’ve been playing quite often. I won 34 pounds for a single pound bet the other day, I have almost doubled that now, I’ve kept the money in my account and I seldom play more than a pound or two. I don’t feel addicted, I feel like something very exciting has been added to my life, that’s it.”

Josie is the type of girl we need more of among racing enthusiasts, as she said: “I love the thrill of this game, when two horses finish close and I’m on the winner. There’s nothing like it!”

While she does make a habit of reading the race summaries before she takes a bet, Josie says: “There is a chain of thought that says men are better at statistics and numbers, and that may well be so. I’m not going to involve myself in hours of form study and analytics, I just want to have fun!”

Kitty (not her real name), from Ealing agreed, saying: “Women are definitely stronger on the intuitive side. When I was a youngster, I often went to the track with my dad and his buddies and they were always trying to explain form to me. They were comparing races and tracks and track conditions and speed figures, dozens of things, but that just bored me.

“I noticed after a while that I was selecting just as many winners on looks than the form students were picking after many strenuous hours looking at facts and figures. All I do, today, is spot good-looking runners in the paddock. I have enough experience now to know when they are stripped and ready, or when they are overweight and out for a run.

“I don’t bet in every race, sometimes they are all on a par in the paddock and then it becomes tricky. But I’d say in at least three races on an eight-race programme there is an outstanding looker, and most of the time they run like they look!”

Brighton-based Kelly (not her real name) prefers online slots, casino games and especially poker, and said she got the bug after reading about the gambling exploits of actress Jennifer Tilley, one of several celebrity gamblers not ashamed of being seen throwing vast amounts of cash at machines and tables. Others include actors George Clooney, Ashton Kutcher, Paris Hilton and golfer Phil Mickelson.

Tilley could be considered a professional gambler in her own right. She won the World Series of Poker Ladies bracelet in 2005 and took home $158,625 in a Ladies’ No-Limit Texas Hold’em event against 600 other players. This famous celebrity gambler also appeared in the cover of Card Player Magazine.

Jennifer met her husband Phil Laak at a poker tournament, he went on to win it, and they never looked back.

She still plays ladies-only tournaments when possible because of the camaraderie. And she believes the tournaments are just as tough as open events, maybe even more so. “I think women are tougher than men because they are more intuitive.”

Jennifer continues to play World Poker Tour events as well, especially ones like the WPT L.A. Poker Classic. It is one of her favourites, having finished in 12th place in the 2008 WPT LAPC Main Event and doing well in other events at the series over the years, perhaps due to a “home court advantage” because she lives in Los Angeles.

And what advice can today’s Jennifer offer to “Just-Met-Phil Jennifer” of 15 years ago?

Pro Tip: “Skip the ‘learning how to play poker’ part and get straight to the boyfriend part sooner!”

For the record, Birdee Magzine listed the Top five female gamblers of all time as:

Lottie Deno: She lived back in the days of the Wild West, when gambling was mostly reserved for men and female players were rarely welcome to the tables.

Judy Bayley: After the death of her husband, Bayley was forced to manage the Hacienda Casino between Los Angeles and Las Vegas on her own, becoming the first woman in the history of Nevada to become a sole owner of a gambling establishment. She was known as ‘The First Lady Of Gambling’.

Gladys Knight: Born in 1944, Knight built a hugely successful career as a singer and entertainer, winning no fewer than seven Grammy awards. However, what many people don’t know is that Gladys spent an entire decade living the secret life of a gambler, playing mostly baccarat and blackjack.

Claudine Williams: Born in 1921, Claudine Williams was the first women to be inaugurated into Nevada’s Gaming Hall of Fame. Williams made a great contribution to the development of the gambling industry in Las Vegas through her Holiday Casino.

Vanessa Selbst: One of the best-known and most successful female poker players (and poker players in general). Born in 1984, Selbst has accumulated close to $12,000,000 in live tournament earnings and has three World Series of Poker bracelets to her name.

*As a surprise this week, we’ll be thanking our contributor Josie West with a day out at Doncaster Racecourse (with two of her friends), on the IRC. Josie has never been to a live horse race meeting and we’ll be delighted to show her around. Josie we’ll be in touch as soon as racing resumes at Donnie with love crowds possible.

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