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    Women often don't seek help for problem gambling

    John Stearns

    DALLAS -- Women with gambling problems don’t always seek out counseling and sometimes don’t respond well to traditional treatments like Gamblers Anonymous, researchers said Saturday.

    A Louisiana study of 319 women gamblers concluded that those who tried Gamblers Anonymous found it too confrontational and dropped out.

    “Women felt much more suicidal after attending G.A.,” reported Bill McCown, associate professor of clinical psychology and neuroscience at the University of Louisiana.

    The report was given Saturday as part of the 16th Annual National Conference on Problem Gambling.

    McCown said perceived stigmas attached to gambling may be at fault.

    “Women haven’t been studied enough and haven't had the opportunities to receive treatment and haven't been open about (gambling),” he said.

    Another study of 365 Canadian women who had concerns about their gambling, concluded that the women placed a high value on trying to help themselves, said Roberta Boughton, addiction therapist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

    She said her study indicated that direct treatment services might not appeal to many of them, Boughton said, suggesting that alternative means of supporting behavioral change and reaching out to women gamblers appears important.

    In barriers to treatment, she found:

    -- 73 percent of the women believing they should make changes on their own.

    -- 59 percent hoping for the “big win” to resolve problems.

    -- 57 percent believing that treatment would require them to give up all gambling.

    Together they show an ambivalence and resistance to treatment, Boughton reported of the need to find ways to support self-change and helpful options.

    Adjuncts to treatment could include screening for other social issues, professional networking and leisure alternatives, she said.

    Boughton’s study of women who gambled in Ontario, Canada, found that on average they gambled the equivalent of 80 percent of their net personal income each month, including reinvested winnings. Slot machines and bingo were the women's favorite games, she found.

    Reasons for gambling included fun and excitement, trying to cheer themselves up, a sense of freedom and stress relief.

    She found that 78 percent gambled to win, with 67 percent feeling their luck would change and 47 percent feeling a financial need to try to win money.

    Boughton also found that 89 percent thought about making changes over the past year and that 80 percent tried to stop or reduce their gambling. But 89 percent had never had gambling counseling and 91 percent had never attended Gamblers Anonymous, she reported.

    McCown said women don't necessarily have more gambling problems, but there are more of them gambling as the activity has opened up, he said. And it's not fair to say they have more problems with video poker, for example, than men, he said in an interview after his presentation.

    “We're seeing more women with sports-gambling problems” and more men with video poker problems, McCown said.