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The Feminine Side of the Gambling IndustryBy Shane Addinall Aug 05, 2022Today, we explore the role of iconic females in the gambling world. Whether they raised the bar for table manners in poker or launched pioneering businesses from a Portakabin, these women all made their mark in the gambling industry.
As the world of online casinos expands, the gambling industry evolves into a more diverse and highly imaginative market. Long gone are the days of boys’ clubs and their smoky cigar rooms void of female presence. Modern gambling has a lot to offer female consumers and studies reveal just how popular gambling is among women in the 21st century.
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when most consider what women want to do while they relax, but evidence leads us to believe that the rise of online casinos opened countless doors for women in gambling. Today we meet ladies from various parts of the industry who sit on either side of the felt table.
Historic Female Gamblers
The following ladies made a name for themselves as legendary gamblers with some existing in history books and others still rocking the casino world.
✓ Carlotta Thompkins
Two centuries ago, a Texan lady by the name of Carlotta Thompkins caused quite the upset in her family by becoming one of the greatest poker players of the time. Born in Kentucky, Ms Thompkins’ father taught her everything he knew about gambling sports betting. Her mother wasn’t a big fan of the industry although Mr Thompkins made a career out of it.
Carlotta had quite the knack for playing cards and soon everyone started calling her Lottie Deno, partially derived from the Spanish word for money, dinero. Because her mother had other plans for Carlotta, she sent her to Detroit to get married, but the plan failed and Lottie Deno fell for an outlaw with a love for gambling. The pair led a nomadic life for a while, making money from gambling and eventually slowed down and settled in New Mexico.
✓ Judy Bayley
Born in the early 1900s, Judy Bayley is one of the most famous gamblers of the 20th century. Interestingly, she is also from Texas and around the 1960s she became known as the First Lady of Gambling in Nevada. Her husband Warren Doc Bayley died an untimely death in 1964 and left Judy as the sole owner of their hotel-casino in Nevada.
In the blink of an eye, she became the first-ever woman to own and operate a hotel-casino in the area. As it turns out, she did not only have a gambling gift, but she also became an icon in the casino industry for her strategic publicity approaches. Her passion for entertainment had a great impact on how she managed her business and although she had no formal business training, the casino flourished under her reign.
✓ Annette Obrestad
Fast-forward a few decades on and we run into a young lady named Annette Obrestad. Born in 1988, she had an early start in gambling when she started playing poker on free websites. Annette was only 15 years old at the time but since then she has made a name for herself in the modern poker community.
Purportedly, Annette never deposited money into her online gambling accounts and only used funds she won in the free tournaments. She made waves in the poker community by raking in some big pots in her first year of playing. Between 2006 and 2007, Annette won $600,000 on Pokerstars, $175,000 on Tilt Poker, and $260,000 on UltimateBet. She is also the youngest person to ever win a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet.
✓ Vanessa Selbst
ome call her the greatest female poker player of all time, and for good reason. Vanessa Selbst became one of the best-known faces in poker during her career as a professional poker player. Born in the decade of bad fashion and brilliant music, Vanessa won three WSOP bracelets and is the only woman who reached number 1 on the Global Poker Index.
She made a name for herself as an aggressive opponent and through her brilliant card-playing skills amassed an astonishing $12 million to her bank balance in prize winnings. In 2018, the Yale law graduate announced her retirement from poker and explained that it felt like an actual job.
✓ Kirsten Bicknell
Canadian-born Kirsten Bicknell made a name for herself by playing online poker during her first year of attending university. Kirsten dubbed herself ‘The Ultimate Grinder’ when she played an astonishing number of poker hands to become the esteemed player she is today. Rumour has it she played 7.5 million hands over two years from 2011.
With over a decade of games under the belt, Kirsten collected prize money worth $11 million, and some estimate her net worth at $16 million. She won her first WSOP bracelet in 2013 and since then won two more bracelets. Another feather in her cap is the numerous nominations as the GPI Female Poker Player of the Year, which she won three years in a row.
Women Shaking Things Up in Gambling
Let’s move to the other side of the table for a moment. The following women shattered the glass ceiling in the gambling industry. Today, some of them continue to shape it into a more diverse and inclusive industry.
✓ Denise Coates and Her Vision
Born into a family business comprising betting shops, Denise Coates’ destiny with the gambling industry was pre-ordained. When her father gave her control of the betting shop franchise, Denise was eager and ready to take their family business to the next level. With the support of her brother, John, and the belief that online platforms are the best bet, Denise launched Bet365.
Today, Denise is one of the highest earning females in the world and her dream company is a reputable top-tier gambling business. Although she describes the endeavour as a gamble, luck had very little to do with the econometrics graduate’s success. Humble beginnings in a Portakabin and her determination to make the online business greater than any other paved the way to bet365 success.
✓ Therese Hillman’s Strategic Approach
Most punters are familiar with their favourite games and the true fans know which software providers created them. What many don’t focus on are the people behind the companies that continuously deliver amazing content. One such person is Therese Hillman, the former CEO of leading software provider NetEnt. She oversaw the birthplace of Gonzo when he first arrived on our screens, and she guided the path for NetEnt’s expansion over several years.
Therese first joined the NetEnt team as the CFO in January 2017 and a little over a year from there, she became the acting CEO. The CEO position officially became hers in May 2018 and 16 months later she helped seal the Red Tiger acquisition deal worth £197 million. She led the company through some of its most historic events, like the Evolution Gaming takeover. After the Evolution take over, Therese took a step back and her fans await her next move.
✓ Pansy Ho and Her Silver Gambling Chip
Although she is the daughter of the infamous Macau casino mogul, Stanley Ho, this casino executive is not riding the wave her father triggered with his casino monopoly. Pansy Ho set out to build a reputation for herself as an ambitious and able businesswoman. Sure, her current $3.1 billion net worth comprises her share of the empire her father built, but she proved her solid business acumen over the past decade as an entrepreneur in her own right.
She shares the same passion for business with her late father and used her ambition to secure wise investments in multiple industries including property, transportation, and gambling. In 2018, Bloomberg named her the richest woman in Hong Kong and many believe it is her fierce approach to business that landed her the wealth and title.
✓ Zoë Osmond Pushing for Responsible Gambling
GambleAware is one of the biggest forces in the British player protection sphere. The organisation appointed Zoë Osmond as its CEO in 2021. Zoë previously held positions at the charity organisation as its Communications and Engagement Director where she spear-headed safer-gambling campaigns and increased the company’s reach throughout the UK.
Anyone following the UK Gambling Reform saga knows that Zoë and her team are fighting tooth and nail to increase support for RET funding, which is currently a voluntary practice. She has the responsibility of distributing funds to national partners in aid of gambling addiction.
Women like Zoë and the others mentioned above, are in the right positions to change the industry completely.
An Influx of Female Gamblers
Although some women started making history in gambling centuries ago, it remained a male-dominated scene for very long and only recently the tables started turning. With a more feminine approach to handling business and the convenience of remote gambling options, statistics show a significant rise in female gamblers.
They must harness the opportunity that comes with this change in demographic through more diverse provider teams in all areas of igaming. Studies reveal female gamblers behave differently from their male counterparts and enjoy games like slots, roulette, and bingo the most. The data shows women use gambling as relaxation instead of entertainment and developers would do well to answer this call.
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