Gambling Addiction in Retirement Age Women Appears to Be on the Rise

Problem gambling experts say the rate of gambling addiction women at-or-near retirement age is increasing “in scope and severity“.

Those experts say the women’s compulsive gaming habits have caused many to lose significant amounts of money, while jeopardizing their retirement.

Keith Whyte of the National Council on Problem Gambling said it is difficult to track the percentage increase of elderly women who engage in problem gambling, but the problem appears to be increasing in scope and severity. For people on a fixed income, the impact on personal finances can be devastating.

The Case of Marilyn Lancelot

One case in point is that of Marilyn Lancelot, an 86-year old retiree living in Sun City, Arizona. Marilyn Lancelot was arrested at age 61 for embezzling $350,000 from her place of business. When Mrs. Lancelot was discovered by her employer, she spent nearly a year in prison and wrote of her experiences in “Gripped by Gambling”.

When asked about her case, Marilyn Lancelot told the Las Vegas Sun, “I really thought I’d win the big one, deep down in my heart. Every gambler says that.”

Sandra Adell on Female Problem Gambling

Another one of those speaking out about the phenomenon is Sandra Adell, a 70-year old literature professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sandra Adell might not sound like a gaming expert, but she learned about gambling addiction the hard way: through personal experience.

Sandra Adell is the author of Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen“, about her own battle with problem gambling. Professor Adell said that casinos promote an image to older customers of a welcoming environment full of glamorous, smiling people “to create the illusion that plays to people’s weaknesses.”

Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen

“Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen” details the many other ways casinos encourage senior citizens to gamble away their retirement, such as the casino bus lines which drive seniors to the doors of the casino. She said much of casinos’ marketing scheme depends on luring people at or near retirement age to slots row, by portraying it as a safe and glamorous place to find entertainment.

Professor Adell added, “Casinos are trained to make you feel welcome, while you lose your life….What the industry is doing, the way it markets and keeps casinos filled with elderly people, is morally reprehensible.

American Marketing Tactics

Casino marketing is by no means the only industry which produces glamorous ads for less-than-glamorous activities. Beer commercials for years have depicted model-thin people consuming large amounts of alcohol — no beer bellies appear on beer ads. Carl’s Jr. showed bikini models eating huge, greasy hamburgers. In fact, Carl’s Jr’s commercials were so over-the-top, they had a later ad campaign which depicted the earlier commercials as the product of an out-of-control, pleasure-seeking son of the owner.

Ads for casinos use similar tactics, but what Marilyn Lancelot, Sandra Adell, and others who raise awareness discuss is the promotion of a casino as a safe environment. In terms of a woman’s retirement income, it can be highly dangerous for those who are not aware.

Escapist Games on Slots Row

Gaming researchers say that women are a more vulnerable demographic than men, despite the common perception of male gambling addicts. Men are more “action” gamblers, meaning they like to play games like poker and blackjack, which require strategy elements.

Women, on the other hand, prefer “escapist” gambling, in which they can relax and not have to concern themselves with strategy. Their favorite games tend to be slot machines and lottery tickets, which are pure games of chance. The problem is, slots and scratch-off tickets are high-volume games at which a lot of money can be wagered quickly. Even worse, slots and lotto tickets have some of the highest house edges in the gambling industry.

It should be noted that 1% to 5% of the gambling public are considered problem gamblers, depending on who is doing the study. Most experts believe the number is around 2%. For most female gamblers of a certain age, a trip to the casino is not a danger. For those who cannot control their impulses, they need to be aware of the risks.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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