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Why are more and more people betting on women’s sports?

So far, 2024 has shaped up to be an incredible year for women’s sports. One surprising indicator of how much more attention is being paid to college-level and professional women’s teams is the fact that betting is on the rise in this arena. Compared to the first 16 games of last season, the amount of WNBA bets over the first 16 games this season was up 415 percent on FanDuel, a representative for the company told PS over email. As a result, sports betting apps like FanDuel and DraftKings say they’re investing in women’s sports like never before.

“We have a significant partnership with the WNBA, we have more options to bet [on women] on our platform than ever before, [and] we have a specific tab on Caitlin Clark,” says Jennifer Matthews, the vice president of brand strategy for FanDuel, a sports betting company. “The results of people betting more is . . . more partnerships.” (“Partnerships” between sports leagues and companies like FanDuel often involve mutually beneficial cross-promotion and an infusion of cash into the league. )

Meanwhile, for NCAA women’s basketball, DraftKings has seen “14 times year-over-year growth” in terms of money coming in from bets (referred to as “handle”), says Stacie McCollum, the sports betting company’s vice president of content. “The South Carolina vs. Iowa NCAA women’s basketball game was the most-bet on women’s sporting event on DraftKings, ever,” McCollum says. She believes this increase in betting is due, in part, to our collective love for specific players like Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark. It’s also thanks to increased air time for women’s sports on channels that are easy to find and at times that make sense for viewers. Because of this, DraftKings’ network is also launching a show specific to women’s sports.

Many speculate that this kind of investment might mean more money being funneled into leagues known for underpaying athletes. (Case in point: Caitlin Clark’s starting WNBA salary was $76,535, while the World Cup-championship-winning U.S. women’s soccer team battled a lawsuit for equal pay for six years, ultimately settling.)

People with money on a game are more likely to tune in and pay attention, notes Val Martinez, founder of Betting Ladies, a sports betting “community for women.” In the world of sports, eyeballs tend to translate to money, and betting sites have a lot of the latter, with Goldman Sachs predicting that sports betting will become a $45 billion business “when the market is mature.”

Though neither FanDuel nor DraftKings’ spokespeople could speak directly to how betting on women’s sports could lead to higher salaries, McCollum did say, “In general the more investment that’s made in this space should yield greater opportunity for women on the court or the field-of-play to grow their salaries.”

She adds: “It’s kind of that circular connection in terms of the viewership piece, more money, the investments, the more kinds of sports bets that are placed here, and the advertisers coming in.”

Anyway, you may be thinking, “More money going into women’s sports — sounds good!” But, it’s not that simple. “You have to define what you mean by ‘good’ and for whom,” says Mark W. Aoyagi, PhD, co-director of sport and performance psychology at the University of Denver Graduate School of Professional Psychology.

To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, sometimes, money costs too much.


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