It’s fair to say that whilst online gaming (casinos and poker) has generally been considered to be the domain of young men, the industry itself has had no interest in excluding half its potential market. Although the perception is still strong that women aren’t welcome in the world of online casinos, the reality is that the landscape has been changing for a while. Women of all ages are now playing online, with the industry making a conscious effort to broaden its appeal.
What’s behind the increased popularity of online gaming with women? Well, for a start, there is the increased television and media exposure that games like poker now receive. With this there has been a significant rise in the number of women who not only take on the men in bear pit that is the international poker tour, but are hugely successful too. Leading players like Vanessa Selbst, Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke and Victoria Coren are major tournament and prize money winners, and now have significant reputations worldwide.
Many of these women poker stars started their careers playing online before moving on to the bright lights of the tour, and they’ve become hugely positive role models for women thinking of playing poker or just taking their first baby steps into the online casino world.
Another reason for the increase in female participation is the different sort of gaming environment that online casinos provide. Bricks and mortar casinos can be pretty rambunctious places, with testosterone and ego in plentiful supply, full of smoky windowless rooms. For female, these aren’t exactly welcoming places.
The online casino world however is very different. While the majority of games are played in isolation (just you against the RNG), even those games where you play against others – most notably poker – allow you to do so with greater anonymity. Your username or avatar can be gender-neutral, and so this tends to put everyone on a level playing field. The result, most women would agree is that playing online offers a more welcoming, inclusive environment.
The online gaming industry has respond to the growing female interest in gaming by launching a new generation of female friendly sites. These sites have replaced the old-school Las Vegas, red and black colored, over-the-top glamour in favor of more gender-neutral and inclusive designs. Rather than a focus on big jackpots and hyped up-bonuses, these sites pursue are focused on welcoming all types of players and make a virtue of the differences between playing online and on The Strip. This female friendly site with its retro design, reminiscent of a road movie and with more than a hint of Thelma and Louise as an example of one of these new female friendly casinos
Another is Vera&John.com with its pink and light blues offering an alternative vision of how an online casino can look and feel. Its contemporary design coupled with innovative features aimed at the widest possible audience, not just the archetypal young male. More and more such sites are being launched all the time with industry sites like Bestcasinoscanada.com often giving them the highest possible ratings.
Game developers have also come to the party, and are looking at designing online slots and other casino games with broader appeal. Many slot games now are more varied and female friendly in their choices of themes, moving away from the old staple of superhero and film slots, with a growing number of games clearly designed with a female audience in mind.
Take Bridesmaids by Microgaming, based on the hugely successful 2011 film starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph as an obvious example. The game itself successfully incorporates the themes, characters and plot of the film, while its look and feel is clearly designed to attract the predominantly female audience who made the movie such a hit.
Another of Microgaming’s most popular slots of recent years, Immortal Romance, also represents the desire of game developers to broaden their appeal and audience. Notable for its contemporary vampire them, loosely based on the Twilight series, this is a game where the emphasis is as much on the characters and their backstories as on the gameplay itself, and has shown itself to have wide appeal, not least with younger women players.
One area of the gambling industry that has, however, long been associated almost exclusively with women is bingo, and online casinos and bingo rooms have been highly successful incorporating all of its elements – both the game itself and the social aspect that is an integral part of playing bingo – into their online versions of the game. For example, sites like bgo Bingo and Guts Bingo have interactive chat rooms and a host of side games that allow you to interact with other players and the chat room hosts, recreating the fun and social engagement that have always been a part of land-based bingo halls. They also have loyalty card programs, bonuses and rewards for regular players and in this way establish real gaming communities that have direct appeal to women players of all ages.
If your perception of online gaming has been that it’s nothing more than a boys’ club, perhaps it’s time to revisit your view and look again at how the industry has evolved. You may be surprised to discover how much more inclusive and welcoming online casinos are today towards a whole new generation of female players, and that the established view of online gaming as a solely male preserve is no longer the whole picture.