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Montreal study finds more women began gambling online during the pandemic


More and more women are experimenting with online gambling for the first time, a phenomenon that will require further research in the coming years, says researcher Sylvia Kairouz.

A 2021 study of 4,500 Quebecers found that a higher proportion of women reported starting or migrating to online gambling during the pandemic, although more men than women reported engaging in such activities.

"While gambling has generally been associated with men, women are not immune to addiction due to problematic habits," said Sylvia Kairouz, a professor in Concordia University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Through a hundred or so interviews conducted with participants in the study, the researcher noted distinct trends between the two, particularly with regard to the type of gambling preferred.

"Women end up with games of chance, while men are more likely to play poker and table games," said Kairouz. "By making these choices and having these tastes, the risk is much greater for women."

Research indicates that women frequently use games such as slot machines and scratch or lottery tickets for escape and relaxation, as well as to escape from reality. Unlike men who seek thrilling gaming experiences, women tend to opt for longer games that involve lower stakes.

"They will often say to us: 'we feel a bit hypnotized when we play. We take our minds off things and relax.' That's why scratchers -- especially long scratchers -- and slot machines, women like it a lot," said Anne Elizabeth Lapointe, executive director of the addictions treatment and prevention centre Maison Jean Lapointe, in an interview.

Statistics Canada data from August 2022 also shows that higher proportions of women than men reported playing bingo (5.7) and buying instant lottery tickets or playing online games (34.8).

The same survey noted that among those who had gambled in the 12 months prior to the surveys, two per cent of men and about one per cent of women were at moderate to high risk of developing addiction problems, or about 304,000 Canadians.

"Women often seek less help than men in terms of addiction. There is still a lot of stigma attached to them, even though they are clearly targeted by the industry, whether it's alcohol or anything else," said Lapointe. "What stops women is a lot of shame and guilt."

Although the gender gap in online gambling participation is narrowing, research models have long been based on male habits. Women remain under-represented in surveys, and their results tend to be generalized. For Kairouz, the phenomenon of female addictions needs to be targeted so that future studies can better address it.

"The data, if you don't distinguish between women and men, is much more reflective of the male reality... We know that women's reality is totally different: the meaning they give to gambling and the function of escape and compensation in their lives are much more present," she said.

The next round of data collection will take place from April to September, she adds, which will provide a more complete picture of the situation over a period of more than two years.

"This is really one of my research areas, the relationship between gender and play," she said. "We will be able to observe the trajectories of the participants and whether they are the same for men and women. The gender dimension is going to be extremely important for us."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 17, 2023.

This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta and Canadian Press News Grants. Top Stories

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