Achieving a work-life balance is something everyone is striving for in this day and age. With all the work tasks, home chores, things to do, and people to see, some rest and relaxation are sorely needed. For many people, gambling is a great way to unwind after a long day.

Games of chance have been a fun pastime for people since the dawn of time. Look to the right, and you can see children flipping coins to see who gets to play which role in hide-and-seek in the park. Look to the left, and you’ll see old men playing chess and passers-by betting on who will win. Gambling is everywhere, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Still, anything in excess is surely not good. With the proliferation of land-based casinos and online gambling platforms, sports betting ads are everywhere, and with mobile gaming, relaxation has begun to go awry.

Problem gambling affects both genders, and the statistics are certainly alarming. It is defined as gambling where people compulsively keep engaging in the activity despite the fact that it negatively impacts their life. This can manifest in a multitude of ways — financial losses, behavioral problems, further mental issues. It can affect your workplace performance, your family life, and your physical and mental health if left untreated.

The U.K.’s Gambling Commission keeps statistical records, and they show that 66% of men and 59% of women participate in gambling activities in Britain each year. However, just engaging in those doesn’t mean one has a problem with gambling. 

Male and female gambling habits are surprisingly similar, and any gaps that may have existed are fast closing. However, it would seem that men’s health is more adversely affected by gambling than women’s. 

Research recently conducted in the U.K. suggests that men are over seven times more likely to have a gambling problem compared to women. Interviewees have expressed that it’s a part of lad culture where they live, but it’s also deeper than that. 

Both men and women play free online games to win real money with no deposit, and they are at their fingertips. You can play colorful slots that spin around while you’re waiting for your child to get changed after football practice. You may be playing a few rounds of poker online at night during the times you’ve drunk too much coffee and can’t seem to get to sleep. Particularly, if you start winning during your first few visits to an online casino, the chances are you’ll want to go back again soon.

But let’s delve deeper into the reasons as to why men get carried away by this more than women.

Gambling and Lad Culture

Sports betting seems to account for a good portion of problem gamblers. Many men go to a pub in the evening with their friends to drink beer and watch the games, and they often spice that up with some betting. 

One interviewee has said that it is hard to get out of such a vicious cycle for two reasons. One, you don’t want to admit that you’ve lost a lot of money lest you lose face in front of your peers. Secondly, it’s hard to talk about having a problem when so many of your friends are gambling, and it doesn’t seem to affect them adversely at all.

The Risk Takers and the Risk Adverse

The research showed what other papers also support — men tend to be bigger risk takers than women. When it comes to gambling, however, this isn’t necessarily a good trait to have. 

Men are proud to win, and getting to boast about it is part of why they do anything, an interviewee has said. They even boast when losing to show how they can handle it.

Men were also found to be, unsurprisingly, more impulsive. The participants were asked what they would do if they won £500 on a game of chance. Over two-thirds of men said they would use it to continue their gambling, while over 72% of women said they would stop there and save the money.

So it would seem that masculine personality traits also play a role in more men developing a gambling problem compared to women.

Marketing and the Human Brain

These days, we are perpetually exposed to advertising, everywhere you walk on the street, every time we watch television. Even when watching YouTube, you encounter an endless stream of unwanted ads. 

A survey conducted in the U.K. shows that 95% of the ads that run in the breaks of football sports events are related to gambling. It also estimated that men watch sports for a total of 20,000 hours (or 83 days) of their lives. On the other hand, women watch sports less than 10,000 hours (or around 40 days) in their lifetime.

This may account for why men are more adversely affected by gambling problems — they view at least twice as many adverts! The U.K.’s Gambling Commission is now creating new guidelines that will not allow gambling ads to exploit cultural stereotypes making it seem like it’s manly to gamble.

That cultural moment that ad companies exploit may be the hardest to battle as it is so ingrained in human consciousness. One of the interviewees said that men wanted to be powerful and thus chased the high life. They believed gambling would result in glamour and give them the alpha male experience they’d always sought after. But, he concluded, gambling was not a way to make money — it would just take you down in the end.

In Conclusion

As the gender lines blur, so male and female gambling habits coalesce. Yet men are targeted more by marketing companies and the promise of more respect and masculinity when they win a bet. Likewise, the cultural stigma when it comes to reaching out for help persists, which is a double whammy against the male gender. 

Gambling Commissions around the world and taking action to make gambling advertising a space of fair play. This will not be enough, but it is certainly a start. 

The rest is up to the individual, be they male or female. And if individuals start to put their health first, then surely there is hope for the future.