Interest and betting in women’s sports are experiencing an unprecedented surge in the United States, driven significantly by the popularity of basketball star Caitlin Clark. Making her professional debut with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, Clark has been pivotal in drawing record-breaking betting activity on the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Gamblers are keenly wagering on her professional prospects, marking a significant trend in sports betting.

However, Clark’s influence is just a facet of a broader movement in the United States market. Sportsbooks are reporting an overall increase in betting on various women’s sports. Anticipation is building for the upcoming Olympics, with the U.S. women’s basketball team, historically dominant with seven out of the last eight gold medals, expected to attract substantial betting interest. Similarly, the U.S. women’s soccer team, known for its consistent performance, is also drawing strong betting engagement.

A Great Opportunity

“There’s a great opportunity for it right now, so why not throw gasoline on the fire?” remarked Meghan Chayka, co-founder of the hockey analytics firm Stathletes, quoted by the Associated Press. She emphasized the importance of maintaining this interest beyond major events like March Madness, suggesting it’s a strategic way to diversify the fan base.

Johnny Avello, director of sports operations for DraftKings, highlighted the increased star power in women’s basketball. “Ticket prices, media attention, and even preseason betting are all up as this new era of stars gets ready to enter the league,” he noted. Avello also pointed out that the WNBA has been growing steadily, and this season is anticipated to be particularly significant.

The impact of this growth is evident in the betting statistics. DraftKings reported a 3.5-fold increase in bets on this year’s women’s college basketball tournament compared to the previous year, with nearly four times the total money wagered. BetMGM also saw a 175% increase in money bet on WNBA futures, which include predictions for the league’s champion or MVP.

Validation Of Women’s Sports

Donna Orender, former president of the WNBA and a former professional basketball player, views the rise in betting as a validation of the success of women’s sports. “That money represents engagement,” she said. “If people are betting, they are engaging. That is healthy for a sports league.” She, along with other experts at the recent SBC Summit North America conference, predicted that 2024 would be a landmark year for women’s sports in terms of popularity, viewership, and betting activity.

Syd Harris, director of brand and content for Betway, acknowledged the intense interest in Caitlin Clark. “We know people are watching and betting on women’s sports. If someone comes in amid the excitement of March Madness, how do you continue that?” The answer, according to many top sportsbooks, is to offer the same kinds of performance-based bets, known as proposition or “prop” bets, on women’s sports as they do for men’s. For instance, many sportsbooks provided various prop bets on Clark’s debut game, reflecting significant interest.

Despite a challenging debut, where Clark scored a team-high 20 points but also had 10 turnovers, she remains a popular bet for MVP. BetMGM reports that 68.1% of total bets and 74.5% of all money wagered on the MVP is backing Clark at +1000 odds.

Interest in women’s sports isn’t limited to basketball. Women’s soccer, particularly the U.S. women’s national team, has also garnered substantial viewership and betting interest. This trend is expected to continue with upcoming international events. Jennifer Matthews from FanDuel noted the significant betting on women’s hockey during the Olympics and described promotions aimed at enhancing viewer engagement during the Women’s World Cup.

Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading at Caesars Sportsbook, echoed this sentiment, noting the longstanding popularity of U.S. women’s teams in the Olympics and World Cup tournaments. “The success of Team USA over the years has driven tremendous interest in other women’s sports,” he said. With the added interest in Caitlin Clark, this momentum is expected to sustain through a summer filled with top-tier women’s sports events.

Sports bettors are increasingly adopting a sophisticated approach to women’s sports, treating them with the same analytical rigor as men’s sports. At Fanatics Sportsbook, for example, bets on Clark’s Indiana Fever to finish the season with fewer than 21.5 wins have been particularly popular. Donna Orender finds it rewarding to see women’s sports gaining wider recognition. “It’s about time!” she exclaimed. “Finally, the world is saying, ‘We see you, and you have tremendous value.’”