Tampa, Florida – Compulsive gambling among women is often called the hidden addiction.
While men are considered “action” gamblers, it’s estimated that 95 percent of women prefer solitary options like playing slots and video poker for one main purpose.
“With women, we’re looking at more of wanting to escape. What to escape from? What is empty in their lives? What isn’t being met,” explains Susan Campion, a gambling counselor.
Lifestyle changes, loss and divorce are common reasons why women seek out gambling as a coping mechanism. The adrenaline-high can quickly trigger the physical need to just keep gambling.
“It can be as short as six months. We rarely see that in other addictions, or male population as much,” Campion says.
Today, more women have the financial resources to gamble, as well as easy access to a variety of gambling options from pull tabs, to the lottery to the casino. For some, however, social gambling is not an option.
One woman interviewed asked us to keep her identity private, so we’ll call her “Kathy”.
“I felt adrenalin on the way to the casino, and suicidal on the way home,” “Kathy” told us.
Gambling has been a part of “Kathy’s” life for as long as she can remember. Her dad was a bookie and she spent her allowance betting on football games.
“It was just a game. I would get neighbor kids to play ‘Sorry’, and I wouldn’t let them leave until I won it all,” she remembers.
But, it wasn’t until local casinos opened that her gambling escalated from that of a pastime to a full-blown addiction.
“You get up every day to brush your teeth; I’d get up and prepare to go to the casino. Many times I didn’t want to go, but it was a habit.”
On the outside, “Kathy” had the perfect life, four children, a loving husband and a multi-million dollar home in the suburbs. Because she owned her own business, she had the funds and autonomy to gamble whenever she wanted.
“They would go to bed. I’d leave the cat in the room, take the dog, go to the casino and be home by 5:15 a.m. before my husband got up. I would take the kids to school, go to work for a few hours and then do it all over again,” Kathy recalls.
But, surprisingly, she says, it was never about the money.
“Even if I had the last $10 to my name and needed gas, food or I needed to go to the doctor, nothing else would matter.”
But, Kathy couldn’t stop until she hit what she thought was rock bottom. She got caught participating in a mail fraud scheme involving her business that landed her in prison for a year. Her world changed forever.
The hardest part for her came when she had to tell her children.
“When I had to tell the kids, my youngest cried and it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” Kathy told us.
Kathy walked out of prison with nothing. No husband, no job, no car. Unable to cope with her disconnected life, she went back to her comfort place, the casino, but because that was a probation violation, she went back to jail for a 15-month sentence.
Today, Kathy has a job, joint custody and her own place to live, and while her struggle isn’t over, she’s in a much better place.