Women A Growing Part of U.S. Sports Betting

Men have always been the gender associated with sports betting. But women are rallying to catch up. The number who signed up for sportsbooks apps rose 115 percent in 2021.

Women A Growing Part of U.S. Sports Betting

This should make people sit up and take notice, including men.

More than 4.6 million women signed up for sportsbook apps in 2021, a growth of 115 percent year over year. Males increased 63 percent by comparison, according to a survey by Global Wireless Solutions. This despite the fact that women are nowhere near as prevalent on television as men.

Think what would happen if the industry caught on. According to Sports Handle, it has…to an extent.

Dave Sharapan has three school age daughters. The oldest plays softball on scholarship at the College of Southern Nevada and recently wrote a paper about the lack of women’s sports on TV.

“She’s like, ‘Softball’s as good or better than baseball,’” said Las Vegas bookmaker Sharapan. “I’ve been coaching girls since the age of 12 to pursue this dream, and for them not to have a next level stinks. That’s why the WNBA is so important.”

FanDuel—which has a woman at the helm—has focused on bringing more women fantasy football players.

Still, the American Gaming Association and the National Council on Problem Gambling say women make up less than a third of all sports bettors.

“My personal hypothesis is it has partly to do with social attitudes toward different types of gambling,” said Professor Rachel Volberg of the University of Massachusetts, who has studied gambling behavior extensively. “Certainly, betting on sports has been heavily gendered.”

Don’t discount the generation differential, said Don Feeney, a research consultant for the NCPG.

“Sports betting is much more popular among young adults than older adults,” he said. “I’m guessing that’s particularly true for women, because there are a lot of women 50 and older who would have never even considered making a bet on sports. For women in their 20s, that’s very much a part of their landscape.”

The opportunity to place bets in the privacy of your home makes it easier for female participation.

“From the academic side, why women don’t bet as often as men certainly hasn’t been an avenue of study that people have pursued — which, frankly, is an answer unto itself. I think it’s a little odd that we just say ‘sports’ instead of ‘men’s sports.’”

To the company’s vice president of business development, former WNBA player Marissa Coleman, visibility—or lack thereof—is the main roadblock.

“I don’t think it’s a lack of interest. It’s a lack of visibility,” said Coleman. “The more you put it on TV, the more people will watch. If you’re gonna bet on women, you have to know who they are.”

But when and where it’s able to be seen matters as well.

“It’s got to be on something other than ESPN+,” said Kelly Stewart of Barstool Sports. “Women’s tennis players are out of this world, incredibly athletic. They get more airtime probably because it’s a more international sport. We’ve got amazing women golfers, but they’re never on TV, so nobody knows their names.”

Women are becoming sports bettors in the US in record numbers, according to new data gleaned from smartphones. The estimates were extrapolated from nearly 200,000 smartphones across the U.S., according to Legal Sports Report.

It is also worth noting that app downloads do not necessarily equal betting. Women bettors were generally less active than their male counterparts, said mobile insights firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS.)

FanDuel Sportsbook attracted the newest female users in 2021 per the study, with an estimated 1.7 million sign-ups over the year. DraftKings was second with an estimated 900,000 new female users.

Those numbers may reflect a deliberate strategy from FanDuel. CEO Amy Howe said before the Super Bowl that women bettors were a “huge opportunity” for the company.

Amy Howe said women made up 50 percent of sports fans but less than a third of sportsbook users.

“This is a big priority for us,” Howe said. “There’s a lot we’re doing to really try own this.”

That includes more sponsorship of women’s sports, including the WNBA and women’s tennis.

Industry consultant Brianne Doura Schawohl suggested the industry could also appeal to women by changing the tone of advertising and presenting women in a “less sexualized way.”

She identified FanDuel as the most female-friendly brand in the market at present.

“They clearly get input from women on their product. You want to attract female bettors? Get a woman’s input,” Doura Schawohl said.

The GWS research also reiterated some long-held truths about the betting industry. For one, it is reliant on a small number of power users for a big chunk of revenue.

Per GWS, the “vast majority” of gamblers use the apps intermittently. Two-thirds engage with them for no more than five weeks across the year. Meanwhile, the top 5 percent of users make up over half of all app usage.