Researchers have found that women gamble to be sociable - but men gamble to win.
Canadian research reported at an international gambling conference in Auckland yesterday has found that men see high-risk gambling as an expression of their masculinity.
Women in the study were less likely to indulge in high-risk gambling and more likely to play "sociable" games such as housie.
Researcher Heather Chalmers from Brock University in Ontario said gambling treatment programmes should be planned to take account of these gender differences.
"Men like to show their masculinity. Gambling is a way of demonstrating masculinity with some sort of game of skill, so they believe they have some sort of control," she said.
"Women tend to engage in activities that are less skill-oriented such as bingo, lotteries and slot machines."
Dr Chalmers interviewed 310 university students aged 18 to 25. She found that the young men in her sample gambled more often than women in eight kinds of gambling including sports betting, card games and internet gambling.
Bingo (housie) was the only kind of gambling where women outnumbered men.
The men were more likely to wager prized possessions, company shares, cigarettes, drugs and sexual favours.
"I had heard that males were betting their girlfriends, so we included sexual favours as one of the potential things you could wager," she said.
Given various scenarios, the men were also more likely than the women to say that they would bet on horse races and card games and at pre-wedding "casino nights".
Although both genders were about equally likely to buy tickets in a charity lottery, the men saw it as a "win-win" situation where both they and the charity could win, while the women said they would buy a ticket to help the charity but did not expect to win.
Both sexes said the main reason they would play housie would be for "fun".
But for men the secondary reason was "to make quick/easy money", whereas women's secondary reason was "for something to do when they are bored".
"Males are participating for the opportunity to win money. They want to win, that's the main thing," Dr Chalmers said.
"Females are much more likely to report reasons such as hanging out with friends.
"What this means is that we need to develop programmes separately for the two genders so we are able to address their unique needs."