Women hit with “sexually transmitted” gambling debts

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“The men use family money, use the women’s credit cards, and get into debt, which the woman often picks up." Acacia Beaumont talks to a peak body for financial counsellors and  organisation encouraging responsible gambling  about the pressure on women to bear their partner's losses.

While just two of five problem gamblers are female, many women must deal with their partner’s “sexually transmitted debt”, says a spokesperson for a peak body for financial counsellors.

Problem gambling can seriously damage relationships, according to Lauren Levin, the director of policy and campaigns for Financial Counselling Australia.

“The men use family money, use the women’s credit cards, and get into debt, which the woman often picks up,” Ms Levin says. “We call this ‘sexually transmitted debt’.

“Heavy gamblers lie to keep betting, and relationships break down because of the loss of trust.”

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation spokesperson Rose Babic agrees.

“Some of the most common impacts on family members of people with gambling problems are damaged family relationships, emotional problems and financial difficulties,” Ms Babic says.

Similarly, nine percent of those aged between 18 and 24 are classified as problem gamblers in a 2014 study by the foundation.

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation lists the common reasons for gambling are excitement, as a social activity, winning money, as a distraction from family and work pressures and a safe place.

“There is no known differentiation amongst gender for reasons for gambling,” Ms Babic says.

“For both men and women, gambling behaviour can change and grow without notice as it may become bigger in their life than anticipated – and that’s where it can become a problem.”

The director of Westpac Women’s Markets, Larke Riemer, told Fairfax Media’s Daily Life.

Ms Riemer decided to buy her own hotel with her ex-husband. “I’d been working in the finance and banking industry, which I loved, but to own and manage our own hotel had always been a dream.

At a particular time in my career and life, looking for something new and different, wearing a pair of rose-colored glasses and believing we could get back together to work, I didn’t hesitate and in I jumped.”

In hindsight Ms Riemer said that she did not conduct any research. The hotel industry during that time was not at its best.

“In the end I walked away with very little left to my name. I had contracted a doozey of an STD and it left me with a bitter taste,” Ms Riemer said.

Ms Riemer gives the advice to her readers to not open a joint account unless you know what your obligations are.

Individuals should seek financial or legal advice if needed, Melissa Browne told the the ABC.

“Getting a big financial surprise after you’ve been together for five years will break trust and could break the relationship,” Ms Browne adds.

“When you enter a new relationship, or when your circumstances change, you need to ask the question: ‘What if everything was to go wrong?’

“It’s not necessarily judgement; it’s just about understanding what this person has come into the relationship with and how it is going to affect me,” she said.