American Gaming Association data from 2019 indicated that 32 percent of sports bettors in the previous year were women.
Let that number seep in: 32 percent. That means one in three wagers were placed by women.
In light of that figure, you’d expect more details, more studies on a what is clearly a significant portion of total sports bettors. But so far, analyses of women as sports bettors are pretty hard to find—perhaps because of the misconception that sports are a guy thing.
“Relatively little research has been done to distinguish the sports wagering motivations and experiences of women from other demographic groups,” said Jane F. Bokunewicz, faculty director of the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at New Jersey’s Stockton University.
In its own 2019 study, the institute surveyed sports betting and other gambling behavior among Stockton students. Granted, it was a limited demographic, but it yielded similar results: 12 percent of women wagered on sports, compared to 33 percent of men. Again, a little more than a third.
A 2020 survey by Statista.com found that 20 percent of males participated in sports betting compared with 7 percent of females. Once more, the breakdown is about three males for every female.
Yet the SuperBook at Westgate, women represent only 5 percent of its database, said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sportsbook operations at SuperBook.
“The overall counts have trickled up over the years with an uptick in recent years,” Kornegay said.
Do Women Watch Only Women’s Sports?
Is there a sense of what women are betting on? Do they follow traditional men’s leagues or gravitate towards women’s tennis, the LPGA or WNBA?
“In general, gamblers are most likely to wager on games and players that they have particular knowledge of and interest in,” Bokunewicz said. “Inasmuch as women are more likely to have played women’s sports, they may have a particular interest in wagering on women’s athletic events. This certainly doesn’t preclude women from wagering on men’s events or men from wagering on women’s events.”
None of this surprises Johnny Avello, DraftKings’ director of race and sportsbook. “We’re seeing more women wagering and as we continue to expand in multiple states, we surely expect that number to grow,” he said.
Increasing media coverage of female athletes and sporting events could generate even more interest among women. And sportsbooks are buying in: PointsBet, for example, just became an official betting partner of the WNBA, and BetMGM has partnered with the LPGA.
“Tennis is probably the biggest draw among women,” said Avello, “but we’ve also seen an increased interest around entertainment events award shows such as the Oscars.”
They have shown the same betting patterns as men, Kornegay said.
“They tend to migrate to the popular events/sports like football and basketball. Football is the king for women bettors and their biggest presence in the SuperBook is during the Super Bowl. They don’t only play the game but they warm up to our buffet of football props (we usually post approximately 500).”
Speaking to Cronkite News, Cheri Kempf, senior director of the women’s sports collective Athletes Unlimited, said betting enhances involvement in the game, for both women and men. “Suddenly you care about every at-bat, you care about the player who you’re wagering on.”
But that depends on team performance, said Jill R. Dorson, managing editor at sports betting news site SportsHandle.com. “If you’re in a state where the women’s college basketball teams are mediocre and don’t have a great following, sports betting is not going to massively positively affect them,” she told the publication.
Then there’s Bally’s Corp. acquisition of the Association of Volleyball Professionals, and its potential impact on sports betting.
“Bally’s (and a handful of other online operators) are starting to understand the impact and opportunity that exists with female sports bettors,” said Josh Swissman, founding partner and analyst with the Strategy Organization. “Just look at Bally’s recent sponsorship of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury for proof. The ownership of the AVP is a logical next step in this female forward strategy.”
Are Women Better Bettors?
A study by 888 Holdings showed that women win more when they bet on sports in New Jersey.
According to the results, the overall return on investment for women was almost 20 percent, while for men it was -4.6 percent. Women between the ages of 25 and 44 had an ROI of around 128 percent, while the highest for men was 16.9 percent in the 45-to-54-year-old age group.
With those kinds of returns, women would likely do well betting on male sports—and apparently, they already are.
“The NFL is certainly popular among women and has the edge over the Big 3 (football, basketball and baseball),” Avello said. “The NBA sees moderate action, but MLB really lags behind.”
Incidentally, 888 Holdings, the parent company of 888poker, recently made a partnership deal with Authentic Brands Group, owner of Sports Illustrated, in part because SI is popular among female and older consumers.
The final word on the subject to date should go to a woman. In a 2020 interview with SBC Americas Vice President Sue Schneider, Erika Nardini, CEO of Barstool Sports, said, “There’s no reason that you can’t ignite betting amongst women, but you have to do it the right way. It has to be compelling and honest. There are a lot of things that are esoteric and insular about betting, factors which need to be made digestible so people can have fun.
“When you look at the casual bettor, you think about sports fans, I think about women.”