What gives with online gambling?
Research just published in the po-faced (not poker faced!) Journal of Gaming Studies shows key differences in men and women’s online gambling. The research found that women tend to have shorter online gambling careers than men, enjoy shorter gambling sessions and, most significantly, feel guiltier about it.
So what’s going on there?
Well, part of the story is that what happens online is geek-friendly. And sadly, most geeks tend to be male. So the biggest part of the explanation is that cyberspace was first colonised by men and that they’re the ones who still tend to spend more time online. Big deal (as they say in all the best card schools). But that little stinger about women gamblers feeling guiltier than their male counterparts got me thinking.
I mean, why should anyone feel bad about having a bit of harmless fun? And why should women feel worse than men about it?
I guess there’s something old-fashioned about how women should behave just because they’re women. I don’t want to get all Germaine Greer on this, but come on! It’s 2014! Why shouldn’t girls just want to have fun? And more to the point, why shouldn’t they actually have some?
A fabulous role model in this respect is Victoria Coren Mitchell who made the news recently when she became the first two-time winner of the European Poker Tour. Following her victory, a post on the Poker Champs website quoted Coren Mitchell as saying: “I’ve long since lost the sense of what my day job is.”
“Am I a professional writer who plays poker as a hobby? Or a professional poker player who writes as a hobby?”
The fact that such a high profile personality is happy to entertain that question tells us that, for her at least, gambling is a perfectly respectable pastime. The between-the-lines message is a positive one: let’s call it ‘all game and no shame!’
The good news is that there are other people out there who are also on what I see as the right side of this story. The early years of online gambling may have been basically a digital version of your high street bookies, but things are moving on radically.
Offerings on sites like BGO and 888Ladies are clearly targeted at bringing that gaming buzz into the mainstream and giving women the same guilt-free pleasure that men have been enjoying for so long.
Of course ‘Bingo’ is distinct from the cut and thrust of the more macho offerings out there (think of all those laddish TV ads during the world cup) but the bottom line buzz is just the same – you pay your money and take your chance. Everything else is just window dressing.
And although, stereotypically, you might have expected bookmakers to be a bit slow on the feminist uptake, they’ve always had an eye for a market.
Bright, cheery and welcoming, sites like Mirror Bingo are part of a new wave in online gambling. And like the family newspaper that’s behind the venture we’ve highlighted, it’s handling the universal urge to enjoy a frivolous flutter in a way that’s responsible, respectable and above all FUN!
At a time when internet use is becoming a near universal aspect of day-to-day life what happens online is increasingly a reflection of what happens in ‘real life’(the Office for National Statistics show 83% of British households had online access, and that 53% of adults enjoyed mobile connectivity). That sort of on-line/offline balance applies to the role of women in society just as much as it does to the way that gambling is moving out of the shadows.
So the bottom line is that as more and more women enjoy the opportunity to indulge themselves online, the more they’ll help to make the world a less sexist place. And as a geek with a social conscience I’m bound to ask, where’s the shame in that?
Photo: Play Among Friends