Women in Gamblers Anonymous

It’s safe to say that men make up the majority of many 12 step Gamblers Anonymous groups. So where can women fit in? What difficulties do women face in Gamblers Anonymous (GA)? And how can women find common ground with men in recovery from gambling?

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Intimidation for a female gambler in a GA meeting

During the discussion part of the meeting, it seemed like a few of the men directed their comments at me. “Some people come in here just to stay out of prison,” Jerry T. said as his eyes swept around the table.

Bill G. looked straight at me and added, “Any monkey can pull the handle on a slot machine.”

“Slot players aren’t real gamblers,” Sam S. said, while he rocked back and forth in his chair, “Real gamblers bet on sports, horse races, and cards.”

When Pete finished calling on the members to share, he looked at me and said, “You don’t want to share, do you Marilyn?”

“Yes, I do.” I needed help and I wouldn’t let them chase me away. I’d been a member of AA for many years and I never saw a newcomer treated so indifferently as these men were treating me. I thought they might be testing me . . . to see if I really wanted to stop gambling. I had to stay. I lost everything I worked for and at sixty years of age, I wasn’t about to lose anything else. I still had my life. After I attended meetings for a couple of months, one of the men said to me, “Hey, Marilyn, if they came up with a pill tomorrow that allowed you to gamble normally, would you take it?”

“Heck no! If I can’t gamble compulsively, I don’t want to gamble at all. That’s like telling an alcoholic he can have two beers.”

Twenty years earlier, before I attended my first AA meeting, I remember going to the library and standing between the tall rows of books where no one would see me. I pulled the AA Big Book down from the shelf and read parts of it. Now I visit book stores searching for books on gambling. All I find are books written by psychologists or researchers. I couldn’t find any books written by a female gambler.

Finding a way for women to identify with male gamblers

During the five months I waited for my trial, I continued to attend the six different GA meetings in the Phoenix area. At each meeting the men told their war stories and tried to outdo each other. I couldn’t identify with their card games, racetracks, and sports betting, but I could identify with the self-hatred, the guilt, the fears, and all the pains. So I stayed and listened.

“I lost five thousand dollars in one game,” John J. said.

“That’s nothing. I lost ten thousand one night,” Ken R. said as he crossed his arms.

“I started gambling when I was twelve,” said the skinny man in the bright red shirt.

A loan shark had knocked all of Ben’s teeth out when he wouldn’t pay up. He said, “I started gambling in back alleys when I was eight.”

Male v. female points of view in Gamblers Anonymous

The men swore constantly while they shared their stories in the discussions. They made negative comments about female gamblers. One night I asked the group if they would try to not swear so much. They looked at each other and grinned. When the next man spoke, the cuss words flew out of his mouth and he looked at me with a smirk, “Oh, Marilyn, I’m so sorry! I used the ‘F’ word.”

I answered politely, “Thank you for your apology.”

Female gamblers need to relate to other women

In a few short weeks, the swearing became less frequent and I felt more comfortable. These men knew how to stop gambling and I needed to learn how they did it. I used gambling to cope with my problems for seven years and now I must learn new ways to manage my life.

Every couple of weeks a new gal walked into the rooms and some would come back for a second meeting, but none became regulars. I heard men say things like, “Come to my place after the meeting and we’ll talk.”

“Your husband just doesn’t understand,” said the round-faced bald man as he snuggled closer to Barbara.

John S. rested his arm on Brenda’s shoulder and whispered, “You need someone to listen to you.”

“Honey, you need a shoulder to cry on,” Carl said as he walked Jenny out to the parking lot.

“You’re never going to make it.” Steve said threateningly to the two new gals. “You haven’t suffered enough. You haven’t lost enough money or gambled long enough, and you still have your homes and a job.”

Women came to the meetings and sat in the folding chairs, their eyes filled with tears. They listened to the men tell their gambling stories while pain and confusion spread across their faces. Most of them played the slot machines while the men talked about card rooms, race tracks, and sports betting. I was still too new in the program to know how to encourage the women to keep coming back. I didn’t know if I would keep coming back. One night when I watched a new woman leave the meeting, I made a promise to myself that if I could stop gambling, I would start a ‘women’s only’ group. It would be a place where the women would feel accepted and be able to identify with other women.

About the author
Marilyn Lancelot is a recovering alcoholic and compulsive gambler with twenty years of recovery. She has authored three books, Gripped by Gambling , Detour, and Switching Addictions. She also publishes a newsletter on-line, Women Helping Women for recovery from gambling. This newsletter has been published for more than 10 years and is read by women and men around the world.


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  1. Your are a saint. How do you go about doing such a meeting? I’m interested in starting up a meeting just like that and I can’t get any information on how to go about doing it. Can you help me?

  2. Getting out of a gambling addiction cost me my relationship and all my money, of course. Even though I don’t gamble anymore, I still have a competitors mindset at time, even when I’m playing games that don’t have to do with gambling. Here’s what helped me after I lost all my money (besides therapy and moving to a different city where there weren’t any casinos)

  3. I am a gambler and now my son and daughter know it and it has gotten really bad and I been thinking ending my life I need help bad please is there any place I can talk to someone.

  4. I am in the Houston/Katy area. I so desperately need to attend an ALL LADIES gamblers anonyms meeting because the ones filled with mostly men are uncomfortable and I can’t relate and I’m not anti male or anything but they process things, issues differently than women! help!!

  5. Read your story and could totally relate. Went to GA meeting and very uncomfortable with mostly men. Would like to know if you have any chapters here in GA? Thank you Mary

  6. Thanks to Marilyn for your courage in telling your journey in Gripped by Gambling. You are a pioneer for women everywhere that want to stop, but………!
    Thanks to all who take the step to know they need help and reach out to find it whether through hotlines, GA, this blog, counseling. The fact is there is an inner voice that is telling you, you are valued and you are worth a good life without this addiction choking you everyday. Know you are not alone.
    I had done many years (starting in 1984) of Adult Children of Alcoholics (not Alanon!) and from intensive work was in a place of wholeness, emotionally healthy, felt joy and self worth. Then in 1998 gambling came into my life and over the course of 17 years I have watched it escalate, while I spiraled out of control being consumed 100% by this insidious addiction to the lights, music, socializing, the winning, the chase, the 14 20 hours of not eating, just knowing this machine is going to hit. Yuck!! I have been in the AA meetings and heard my family story. I have been in the 12 step for ACA and I squelched that little voice inside of me that said, “hey, you are abandoning me again”. The one thing I said I would never do again for anyone, anything on this earth. Is abandon my God and my child within. By the Grace of God, I have not stolen, or ended up in jail and only by the Grace of God for I know many have. Today, I am in in a couple gambler groups at the council center and I am in 1 one 1 with a wonderful, safe, female counselor. Today I am grateful for that little voice that said, Hey remember me. We all have a journey to complete in this and it is by each one’s journey and sharing that journey in serving each other, that we heal, that we grow stronger and that we start having days go by without being choked by gambling. Even the ones that go back out and come back in, have a journey to be shared and through their sharing, we all become stronger. God Bless all of our the pioneers in this journey , like Marilyn and Ms O’hara in Vegas, for making it possible for me to join and just for today, not gamble.

  7. I need to find online meetings
    I quit after being clean for 5 years. I need help. I have an addiction problem. I am also in AA have been sober for 6 years
    Gambling almost distroy me

  8. Hi Marilyn, I am a compulsive gambler. I entered the GA program on January 14, 2014, my third attempt at GA. I previously tried in 1995 and 2010. By the time I came back in 2014 I was able to answer “YES” to all 20 questions. You know that means I answered YES to thinking and planning my suicide. My experience in GA has proven to me that Men are different, and a lot of them gambled in ways that I did not, sports betting for example. I’ve never placed a bet on sports betting, but I played in card games, casinos, table games, slots, bingo halls, flipped coins, lottery, whatever the action, I played and sometimes for days at a time. Since I have been attending several regular meetings a week, (I go to 10 different meetings) 3x a week. I have been able to begin to really start working the program. I have not had the same experience that you have had….the men that I have come across have been, what I believe…are sincere in understanding me. My bad experiences have been associated with other members (men) that have tried to hit on me outside of the meetings, but I put that to end right away by telling them I needed them to be in recovery and I take it seriously.
    I have seen both men and women come to their first meeting in tears, in misery, filled with pain of what we do to ourselves as we gambled.
    What have I learned so far…I understand why I gambled…I gambled to take myself out of reality, to lose myself, not to think about the real pain I was in, in my life. Since I have stopped gambling for almost 7 months now I’ve had to deal with real life issues on real life’s terms. Big difference!!! I am restoring myself to a normal way of thinking in living through GA with the help of a GREAT MALE SPONSOR! I can count my blessings today!!! I go one day at a time!!! Most days I don’t have a thought or urge to go…I know what “gambling” did to me…It took me out of my life but, it put me in misery, my life was unmanageable, painful, I hated myself, I hated who I was, I hated that I could not leave a casino with money that I won, and I hated myself for destroying my finances. I depleted my 401k, I stole money, I racked up Credit Card Cash Advances, I depleted our savings account, I lied where I was, I lied how much I gambled, I would go to the casino and I would not be able to leave. If I lost, I would just find a way to get more money to stay in action. Swiping my ATM card getting more cash, doing cash advances, credit card cash advance, waiting until after 12:00 am to get more money again, losing my paycheck the day I got paid…and there was no thought process. If I was on a game, and I preferred roulette, and lost all of my money, I would go get more money and lose again and go get more money again. It was never-ending. I could not leave and I hated myself for staying.

    I was having a conversation with my daughter (in recovery), while my husband overheard me telling my grown daughter that I would have done anything to stay in action, ANYTHING. A couple days later my husband asked me “DID YOU EVER SELL YOUR BODY FOR MONEY TO GAMBLE???” Can you imagine!!! I am married over 30 years and my husband thought I would sell my sole to gamble. Thank God I could say “NO” I had not done that, but I also have to add “I HAD NOT DONE THAT YET!” meaning-anything is possible when you want to stay in action.
    All I can say is “keep coming” “keep going” to GA. Don’t give up on yourself. It’s not an easy road, and it’s not well travelled by women, but there are some strong ones and I am one of them!!!
    Have a great day and I pray that those in misery will find their way to GA!!!

  9. What great responses to this article. I love you all. I am currently working on another book which will detail the gambling addiction, causes, how to recover, etc. and how my life is going today. Please check out my newsletter: Women Helping Women, http://www.femalegamblers.info.



  10. Hello everyone! What I want to mention is that gambling is
    one of the worst addictions you can have. It is even worse
    than drugs or alcohol. A person with a drug or alcohol problem
    might still be financially successful. But no matter how much
    money you make, if you are a degenerate gambler, you will
    always be in financial crisis. And I am the perfect example.
    I had 3 successful businesses, and many people depended
    on me and my business, but gambling addiction destroyed
    it all. And then after that everything seemed like a bad
    dream. After losing everything, you vow to get back at
    the casino and get your money back — by any means
    necessary. One thing leads to another, and you organize
    a group of people and execute a spectacular, “Ocean’s
    Eleven” style casino heist. You do get away with millions
    of dollars, but eventually you have to pay for your actions.
    Also I can’t understand those people who differentiate
    between men and women gamblers. As being the weaker
    gender, the women should be even more susceptible to
    be addicted to gambling.
    In the end, what I want to say, sometimes you have
    to reach the bottom in order to get a fresh start and begin
    your climb to the top. Also know you are not alone, and there
    are millions of people like you. So keep up your fight against
    the casino, and the farther away you stay from them, the
    safer you’ll be.

  11. Hi meme. Thanks for your question and for reaching out for help. Yes, you can definitely work the 12 steps of GA outside of the meeting set-up. To find a GA sponsor, you can attend the meetings or call the local GA Hotline in your area and ask to be connect with a female sponsor. Do you know how to find the GA listing in your town or city?

  12. I have been gambling for about 10 years but the last two or three years have really taken me down! I hAve attended a ga meeting twice about two years ago and I just felt like I wasn’t as bad as the others but I hAveeearned that I am them! I really don’t like the meetjng settings. Are there ga sponsors that u can call?

  13. yesterday i got into an arguement with my significant (who is no longer my significant) because yet again I gambled all the money I had away. I have no idea what happens to me but once I step foot in a casino, it is like whatever I do win, it is just never enough. When I told him about it, he said he was done and was leaving. I came clean with my son, who is almost 18 but saw me do this in Vegas as well. I am lost amd broken, I have no idea why Ient story. o this. I understand I have a gambling problem, but I have tried before the steps and have been unsuccessful. I just dpwnload an app amd play for free. I go so long and then it is like I blow that entire time in one fell swoop. I know what my triggers are, yet combating them is an entiely differne

  14. Hi Erica. Yes, it sounds like you’re caught in the cycle of compulsive gambling. I’d suggest that you call a gambling hotline number, and ask about resources in your area where you can go for help. Getting to the root of the issue (boredom, stress, fantasy) can help you understand the triggers for gambling as well as the thought patterns…and then avoid them. The more time you spend in a healthy mind state NOT GAMBLING, the easier it will become.

  15. I am an additcted gambler. Too much of a story to tell at once. My husband gambles too. I have not been to any meetings as I am embarassed and am afraid I will see someone I know. My husband works in a casino, plays music so he is constantly exposed. I use gambling as a relieve from work stress and bordome and also with the hopes of the big win. It seems everything we do revolves around the casino life and of course with all the thousands we have spent we get flooded with comps. Just this week I have thrown all of my players cards away and thown out the offers that have come in the mail. I know that as long as I stay away I am okay but also know that I can not go near casinos and not gamble. I have spent multple thousands, all my savings, my inheritance, everything, oh yes, bankrupcy and keep going back . I know that my husband will not understand when I say no thanks to meeting him for dinner before he works but I know I won’t leave if I do I can not go on like this. I make alot of money and am always beyond broke. Crazy.

  16. I have been an off and on gambler for years now. I have used it like a nasty drug to avoid facing emotions that are hard for me to deal with. I am so tired of the damage it has done to my life and the life of those important ones around me. It tears my insides up when I do it and the problems I didn’t want to face are still there with guilt on top of them.I don’t want this nasty addiction anymore. I know I need support, somebody that I can talk to when the urge eats at me. I plan on attending GA meetings in my area, but is there anybody out there I can talk to when I need to? Please

  17. Hello Tina. Thanks for reaching out. If you’ve gone through A.A., then you kind of know what to expect if you’re ready to stop gambling. It sounds like you’re at a crossroads. Are you ready to change your life? If so, I’d suggest that you call a GA Hotline in your area and ask for help. Changing behaviors is difficult, but worth the effort!

  18. I read (seeing help) blog and I have gone thru AA meetings for years to get sober and now I play the slots and have a horrible time stopping, cause the truth is I love playing the slots. It has caused me so much damage, affecting my emotions, family, work and my finances are a mess. This is worse than going thru AA to stop drinking and using. I wish to God I had never started, cause it is too hard to stop, its affecting me terribly, my insides feel horrible. I feel scared alot. I am afraid for myself. I am trying to get closer to God thru all this. I have not been to a casino in a few months, but now I am doing online gambling, so I dont have to drive. I was going to casinos for several years, but it took too much money to keep going. I have not taken a drink, but I smoke pot and pop pills. This has got to be the worse time in my life. I am 55 and it scares the hell out of me that I will keep doing this and end up with nothing.

  19. I don’t understand what I am feeling. I have gone through AA and never felt like I do with having a problem with gambling. I really need to speak with someone bad…. does anyone know of any meetings or contacts in the New Jersey areA.

  20. Hi Olga. Call 888-442-7105. This is the GA Houston number. They call tell you more about meetings and about Spanish language resources. Or go seek help with the social services…perhaps you can talk with a Spanish speaking counselor to get help and learn more about resources near you. You are not alone!

  21. Hi there, my name is olga, and i would like someone speak to me or help me stop playing. as you know here in houston, texas there are more than 300 casinos to play with, and i am already very addicted to the game, please tell me where can i go to meetings, or if somebody knows if the asguranza blue cross you have these programs in spanish, thanks i hope someone will help me.

  22. This whole blog is nothing like my experience with GA and yes the Terry is a female Terry. Though men do out number the women in the meetings in my area, I have never seen or heard of the blatant abuse, sexism and harassing behaviors. I played the slots and have been going to GA since Jan 2009 but only have a clean date of august 2010. I was never judged about continuing to go back out or the fact that I played slots. We forbid the mentioning of monetary amounts. All I know is this: GA works and GA saved my life!

  23. Hi Peggy. GA has about 5-6 meetings in Houston at the moment. You can call their Houston hotline to ask about Women’s only meetings at Houston Hotline Number: (888) 442-7105 Or, you might try online meetings which have the benefit of a screen between you and the other members.

    Does that help?

  24. I stopped going to meetings that were dominated by men. I would like to attend a womens group if one exist. My zip code is 91206. Please advise if one is available in my area.

  25. Dear Marilyn Lancelot,

    I’ve experienced GA for myself and could not do the program. I haven’t completely obtained from gambling, but neither have I stopped making efforts to control this behavior that is destroying the things that are dearest to me. Thank you for opening up your life to us women out there who are still battling to get our lives back on track.

  26. Especially to Linda Reynolds

    I give you much respect for your 6 months of staying away from gambling. I’m new to slot machines, only played for the first time 2008 and have spent the last 2 1/2 years tying to quit. It only took me 8 months of playing the slots for the first time to realize this was crazy and I needed to stop. Chasing my loses! it was no longer fun or thrilling but a burden I can’t seem to shake off.

  27. I haven’t gambled in six months with the help of a sponsor in aa but now I am having the strongest urge to gamble it is taking every ounce of will power for me to not gamble. I live in billings mt where there is a casino on every corner with huge action signs. I am going to a ga meeting tonight but I can’t get over how terrible this addiction is.it’s like the devil is breathing down my deck all day every day just waiting for me to slip. I hate this

  28. Hi everyone! i have just read a new website where helps us to manage our time and money as well. I just want to share this new IPHONE application that helps everyone regarding on gambling issues. It is called “POKIETIMER” It can be used for all gambling, Casino, poker machines, and racing etc.

    So visit now and logon to Itunes and search for Pokie Timer, and start using it, it is very great 🙂

  29. Hi Ann. If you can provide your zip code, we can look into it. And check out Marilyn’s websites (they are listed at the bottom of the page). They are a great resource for women helping women for gambling!

  30. I have been a member of Gambler’s Anonymous for the last 5 years and 11 months. I gambled for 17 years, giving up my paychecks, my relationships, my home and almost everything I had to it. I was a poker machine player. I live in Las Vegas where it is available in every grocery store, convenience store, many restaurants, all bars and then the casinos as well. K-mart has slot machines. I could not pass a machine without putting money in it. I rarely, if ever took money home. Many men here also play poker machines. I find that men may be callus at times, but many are humble and helpful. I am the secretary of a women’s group and I do find the sharing to be more personal and the emotional support is wonderful. I am grateful that I live in Las Vegas because there are so many meetings . Gambler’s Anonymous has saved my life.

  31. I have sat next to hundreds of women. Like me, they gamble in silence. Occasionally, we small talk…some talk about how much they
    have lost. I usually don’t have a problem winning. I cannot tell you how many $1500 handpays I have won on a nickel machine. (Only one type I ever play). What I cannot figure out is why I sit there and put the money right back in. All of it, and then some. There is only one casino I visit. It is quite a drive.
    All these comments about who plays what – and which addiciton is real. What does any of that matter. At the end of the visit, do you often leave having lost any and everything you can get your hands on?? I do. What matter is the game…it is addiction. Face it!

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