A Look at the History of Women in Gambling

Last updated on October 25th, 2018 at 06:15 am

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From the sound of spinning slots to the entertaining music jingling in your ears, the sounds of a casino can be enticing enough to lull you into a restful state of mind that becomes almost numbing in its influence. Some studies seem to validate this statement, while also suggesting that women are more likely to enjoy playing slots than their male counterparts. Nonetheless, according to this same study, women are not alone in their enjoyment of slots. Unemployed men are more likely to indulge in reel games than employed males, reinforcing the common belief that the noise and lights offered by slot games are distracting enough to make one forget their troubles, even if only temporarily. That being said, gambling has been around for centuries, and it is likely to continue drawing women through its ability to entertain as well as through its promise of excitement, fame, and fortune.


goddess of gamblingThe Roman Goddess of Gambling

Although gambling can be traced back to the earliest days of many civilizations, it is perhaps most pertinent to note that ancient Romans held Fortuna, the goddess of gambling, in high esteem. She portrayed the fickleness of gambling, holding the power to bestow wealth upon anyone she chose.

Italy’s Acceptance of Females Gambling to Win

Oddly enough, men were forbidden from gambling in Italy during the 15th century. Women, on the other hand, had the duke’s permission to enjoy a hand of cards as long as the reward did not include anything other than a few trinkets.


England’s Ladies of Gaming

Ladies of Gaming

English ladies much preferred to gamble long into the night despite the fact that it was illegal to do so. One such group, the “Faro Ladies” chose to do so during the wee hours of the morning behind closed doors during the late 1700s.Some sources state that it is the fact that these players were women that earned them the scorn of their neighbors and not the fact that they were indulging in illegal activity.


America’s Wild Spread of Gambling

Poker Alice

From the middle of the 1800s to the earliest years of the 1900s, gambling fever spread throughout the middle of the United States to its southwestern edges. As the Gold Rush created railroad jobs and the springing up of new towns, the gambling center of the country migrated from New Orleans to California towns. While men were more likely to be seen at poker tables in every saloon between these hot spots, a few women did make a noticeable entrance, partly due to their skills and somewhat because of their feminine presence. Poker Alice also gained some notoriety because she always came armed just in case some lowly man might try to rob her of her winnings, which were usually heavy enough to put some male poker players to shame.


The Institution of Marriage

Oddly enough, the institution of marriage began to have an impact on the type of games offered in gambling establishments, drawing a lot more female players into the mix. As gambling left saloon halls in the past along with the scantily clad showgirls and waitresses, men began to bring their wives with them, creating a situation in which ladies sat quietly by their men in obvious boredom or they chewed their ears off with complaints of wanting to go home. Eventually, the owners of these entertainment halls began to introduce the kinds of games that women were known to enjoy. As a result, games of chance, most notably slot games, began to appear throughout gambling venues across the country.


Annie Duke

Today’s Notable Female Players

Professional female poker players are some of the most well-known gamblers, partly because of their ability to play well but equally due to the simple fact that they are not men. In fact, as the early 2000s brought poker to the forefront of televised events, everyone began to take notice. Several of these women have even won one or more World Series of Poker bracelets, including Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke, Annette Obrestad, Jennifer Harman, and Vanessa Selbst.


Gambling Trends

According to a study recently released by the UK Gambling Commission, a slight dip in the overall participation among adults 16 years of age and older in Britain has occurred in the last year. Since this dip is only a few percentage points, it doesn’t create a significant change in gambling behavior, particularly when one takes into consideration the fact that the economy often influences men’s gambling behavior even if it does not affect that of women. Research into gambling trends from 2009 throughout 2014 in the UK discovered that approximately 58% of adult males gambled during that time, while women gambled at a somewhat slower percentage of 49%.

No matter how you look at it, women continue to indulge in the niceties of gambling. Their reasons might vary along with their winnings, but, obviously, they must derive some sense of enjoyment from it or they would certainly find a new hobby.

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