Both men and women are susceptible to problem gambling. But when addiction hits and the gambler is headed toward rock bottom, the two sexes differ in how they handle the distress.

Female gambling problems

A female problem gambler will look more noticeably despondent when losing, whereas male problem gamblers are more likely to keep their concerns private until lashing out. (Image: GamblingHelp.org)

That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of Gambling Studies by researchers at the University of Adelaide, the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC), and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

“Signs of distress are likely to be more commonly seen indicators for female patrons,” says AGRC Manager Anna Thomas, “while signs of anger or aggression may be more likely to be observed for males.”

The study looked at data collected in two recent large-scale studies about the gambling behaviors in Australia. Researchers analyzed 1185 slot machine players (580 men and 605 women). Of these, 338 showed traits commonly associated with problem gambling.

Gender Disparity

The research found that male and female problem gamblers exhibited similar signs when their gambling habit was spinning out of control. But they also found that the way female problem gamblers showed signs of downward spiraling more noticeably than their addictive male counterparts when hitting the same low points.

Women tended to be “more emotional” when they were losing, the study revealed, more likely to cry or display visible signs of elevated sadness.

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to lash out aggressively, often striking or even kicking a machine. They also tended to be rude to casino staff, and often displayed “territorial” behavior to claim possession of or dominance over certain machines.

Last week in the Philippines, a casino gambler used an assault rifle to shoot up slot machines and ATMs at the Resorts World casino in Manila. He grabbed more than $2 million in chips before lighting tables on fire and eventually killing himself with the gun as 36 casino patrons and employees died of smoke inhalation.

His parents would later claim he had a serious gambling addiction, and a recent spate of big losses predicated the fatal outburst.

Reducing Harm

Red-flag behaviors for men often included clear and visible signs of distress, asking for loans, and attempting to conceal their presence in gambling venues from family and friends.

Female casino patrons with problem gambling conditions are less likely to ask for loans, but will exhibit a noticeable decline in personal grooming, Thomas said.

Her team’s research suggested that it may be easier to detect variations in behavior for female problem gamblers than for males, which is of interest to friends, family members, public health officials, and even casinos that are looking out for their patrons’ well-being.

“It also means that staff may need to spend more time watching potential male problem gamblers before they can be confident that they are displaying behavior that is different from other male gamblers,” Thomas said.

Overall, researchers say this new knowledge will have benefits for problem gambling treatment and prevention. It can also be helpful for training casino employees, who more and more these days are being tasked with making sure casino customers don’t let their gambling addiction get the best of them, and bring out their worst.