Within an industry traditionally dominated by men, online gambling has seen a rapid surge in the number of female gamblers in recent times. The changing demographics - a testament to the accessibility and allure of online gambling - are attracting female gamblers in their droves. The alacrity with which women are flocking to online gaming sites has resulted in serious financial crises, emotional disorders and family disunity.
Hope House, a bold initiative catering to addicted female gamblers has sighted some alarming statistics. The co-director of Hope House in Foxford, Attracta Canny, has seen all the deception, thieving and skullduggery associated with societal vices. Whether it is gambling, drugs or alcohol, Canny stresses the urgency of the situation.
The hidden vice
Her centre has witnessed an ever-growing number of gamblers since 2002. Canny believes it is partially the result of the growth of the ‘Celtic Tiger' - via the extension of increasing wealth and credit availability to individuals. This has had a profound impact on gambling activity.
Addicted female gamblers are stealing, maxing out credit cards of lovers and family members, and clandestinely gambling at all hours of the night. The accessibility of broadband internet, and the glitz and glamour of potential winnings is proving to be an insuperable challenge to overcome. And it's not only in Ireland - this is a global phenomenon.
Bingo is the gateway ‘drug' says Colin O'Driscoll of the Forest Addiction Treatment Centre. He goes on to explain that online gamers, notably women and young folks, soon get hooked on poker and card games via manipulative marketing. The challenge is to educate people about the inherent dangers of online gambling alongside the winnings that may accrue.
With severe family crises set to follow and burgeoning debts, the addict soon feels isolated, depressed and often suicidal. O'Driscoll explains that the female addict can find herself owing up to three times her annual salary in gambling debts.
It doesn't end there
Big cities, small towns and villages will soon be swamped by an explosion of online betting devices. Bookies are excited at proposals to allow fixed odds betting terminals throughout Ireland. Hi-tech gambling will allow user-friendly roulette machines amongst others to be accessed by gamblers of legal age.
Concerned citizens have submitted proposals to Minister of State, John Curran, and Justice Dermot Ahern to look into the viability of allowing such widespread and accessible gambling practices. With changing gender patterns - more women are joining the ranks - calls for a gambling commission have begun in earnest. Addiction counselors and socially responsible gambling initiatives are on the cards.
Such vocal opposition to gambling in Ireland is likely to meet fierce competition from proponents of such measures. The amicable solution depends on regulating the industry to prevent social disintegration in the form of addiction and underage gambling.