bets on women’s sports

Bets on Women’s Sports Are Growing in Popularity. Is it good?

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Bets on Women's Sports Are Growing in Popularity. Is it good?So far, 2024 has been an incredible year for women’s sports, and one unexpected sign of this increased attention is the significant rise in betting on college-level and professional women’s teams.

Compared to the first 16 games of last season, FanDuel reported a 415 per cent increase in WNBA bets over the first 16 games this season, a representative told PopSugar via email. Consequently, sports betting platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings are investing in women’s sports more than ever before.

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Jennifer Matthews, vice president of brand development at FanDuel, adds, “We have a significant partnership with the WNBA, offering more betting options on our platform than ever before, including a specific tab for Caitlin Clark.” “The increased betting activity has led to more partnerships.” These collaborations usually involve significant financial backing for the leagues as well as cross-promotion.

Stacie McCollum, the current vice president of content at DraftKings, reported that the betting handle for NCAA women’s basketball has increased by over 14% following statistics from the last few years. According to her, The game between South Carolina and Iowa NCAA women’s basketball team was the most staked event on DraftKings when it comes to women’s sport.

She attributes this surge to our collective enthusiasm for standout players like Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark, as well as increased airtime for women’s sports on accessible channels and at viewer-friendly times. DraftKings is also launching a show dedicated to women’s sports.

This kind of investment could potentially lead to more funds being directed towards leagues that have historically underpaid their athletes. For instance, Caitlin Clark’s starting WNBA salary was $76,535, while the U.S. women’s soccer team, despite their World Cup victory, fought for equal pay for six years before settling their lawsuit.

Val Martinez, founder of Betting Ladies, a sports betting community for women, points out that people with money on a game are more likely to watch and engage. In the sports world, viewer engagement often translates to revenue, and betting sites are flush with cash. Goldman Sachs predicts that sports betting will become a $45 billion industry once the market matures.

While spokespeople from FanDuel and DraftKings couldn’t directly link betting on women’s sports to higher salaries, McCollum suggests that increased investment in this area could create more opportunities for female athletes to earn more. “It’s a circular connection: more viewership leads to more investment, which results in more bets, attracting advertisers and generating more money for the sport.”

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

More Money, More Problems?

The influx of money from sports betting might seem appealing, but it carries significant drawbacks. Dr Aoyagi explains, “Sports leagues may celebrate the additional revenue, but for players, it’s another layer of stress.” A major concern is the mistreatment of athletes driven by gambling interests. According to a recent NCAA release, one in three high-profile athletes receive abusive messages online from those with betting stakes.

“Players often receive horrific, sometimes life-threatening messages on social media, regardless of their team’s performance,” Dr. Aoyagi notes. This is often due to prop bets, which are wagers on specific game elements unrelated to the final score.

For example, betting on whether a player will score a particular number of points can lead to frustration and anger among bettors, regardless of the game’s outcome. “Whether a player has a good or bad game, win or lose, someone is always losing money and venting their anger,” says Dr Aoyagi. “Great game or poor performance, someone will be upset and send nasty messages.”

Heightened Risks for Women Athletes

Women athletes face even greater risks of harassment compared to their male counterparts. Research by the European Women’s Lobby indicates that women are 27 times more likely to encounter online harassment across various fields, from reality TV to politics. The NCAA further states that women’s basketball student-athletes receive approximately three times more threats than their male peers.

Despite the growing number of women engaging in sports betting—research from 888 Holdings shows that over 4.6 million US women joined sportsbook betting apps in 2021, marking a 115 percent increase from 2020—most bettors are still men, according to 2022 research from the Pew Research Center.

This dynamic can exacerbate issues of gender-based harassment and misogyny in the sports betting arena. “Introducing gender dynamics and misogyny into the mix creates a volatile situation,” Dr. Aoyagi warns. “It’s bound to get messy.”

Efforts to Curb Abuse

Various initiatives are underway to limit prop bets, especially those involving student-athletes. For instance, legislation in North Carolina aims to address this issue. While it’s challenging to prevent abusive messages completely, some betting companies are taking steps to mitigate the problem.

FanDuel, in an email statement, emphasized its support for mental health initiatives for both athletes and customers. The company recently partnered with Kindbridge Behavioral Health Services to provide self-excluded players with access to mental health assessments and support services. This pilot program started in New Jersey and Ohio, with expansion plans.

What to Know Before You Place a Bet

Sports betting might be marketed as entertainment, but it is a form of gambling. Dr. Aoyagi points out that while many people can bet without negative consequences, a significant subset may encounter problems.

Both FanDuel and DraftKings claim to have systems to promote responsible gaming. These include tools like deposit limits, spend limits, maximum wager limits, and player activity statements, similar to bank statements, to help players manage their betting within a budget.

However, Dr Elizabeth Ward, a clinical psychologist specializing in sports psychology, remains skeptical about the effectiveness of these tools, especially since they are provided by the same entities profiting from the bets. “The house always wins,” Dr. Ward says. “Relying solely on these tools to curb excessive betting is not foolproof.”

Dr Aoyagi advises setting conservative betting limits and monitoring your adherence. “If you find yourself justifying additional bets, it’s a red flag,” he says. “Recognize these patterns early to prevent potential problems.”

Interestingly, women bettors might exhibit more responsible behavior. “Women are 50 percent more likely to set a budget for their gambling activities compared to men,” notes Martinez from Betting Ladies.

Dr. Aoyagi also recommends tracking your emotional response to betting. If you notice feelings of anger or distress, it’s important to reflect on these emotions and possibly reduce your betting activity. Keeping a journal can help in understanding these patterns. Additionally, if you ever feel the urge to send a hostile message to an athlete, write it down instead and explore why betting provokes such strong feelings.

For those with a family history of addiction, Dr. Ward advises exercising caution or avoiding betting altogether. Instead, find alternative ways to engage with sports, like hosting watch parties or attending games in person. While some forms of sports betting can be social, it’s crucial to create camaraderie without financial stakes.

As sports betting continues to grow, particularly in women’s sports, it brings both opportunities and challenges. While there are still many unknowns, one thing remains certain: as Dr. Ward says, “the house” will likely always come out on top.

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