Sports betting in March is dominated by the Men’s NCAA Tournament, but there’s another March Madness out there: the women’s tournament.
Betting on the women’s tourney is a fraction of what sportsbooks see from the men’s tournament, but sports betting interest is growing, according to several industry insiders.
There will be plenty of interest this weekend, too, as the women’s Final Four is contested in Minneapolis. The two national semifinals — South Carolina vs. Louisville, and Stanford vs. Connecticut — will be played on Friday. The winners will meet to determine the national champion on Sunday night.
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Women’s March Madness Betting On The Rise
This year’s men’s tournament is expected to set a record for total wagers placed on March Madness, with several states joining the market since the 2021 tourney. Nine states, including Arizona, and Louisiana, launched their legal sports betting markets since the last champion was crowned. New York launched online sports betting in late January and has quickly become the nation’s largest sports betting market. With those markets humming, the total sports betting handle for March Madness should be record-breaking, too.
The women’s tournament is less popular than the men’s, which gets coverage of all 67 games across four TV networks, but the fanatical bracket-obsessed interest in college basketball overall is helping to improve the profile of women’s hoops too.
Robert Walker, the Director of Sports Book Operations for US Bookmaking has been observing college sports and odds trends for more than three decades. He said he sees reason for optimism in the women’s college game.
“There is no doubt the women’s tournament is getting bigger each year,” Walker told NY Sports Day. “We are seeing games sold out now in conference tournaments, and first- or second-round games [in the NCAA tournament]. That is really great.
“There are more [women’s] games on television than ever before, and we know that television drives wagering. On top of that, the talent is incredible.”
Walker is right. Stars like Sue Bird, who is completing a two-decade career in the WNBA, as well as others who starred in college, have made the women’s game more visible and popular. The competition is getting better at the college level, too.
“We are seeing great play on a nightly basis.” Walker says, “And the disparity between the very best teams and the next level teams is narrowing.”
DraftKings expanded its prop bets for the women’s tournament to include several new offerings in approved states, including point spreads, totals, team vs. field, buzzer-beaters, first No. 1 seed to lose, winning region, seed to win the tournament, and the number of upsets.
“We believe that by offering as many female sports markets as allowed across our regulated states, we are encouraging more engagement and visibility for these female athletes/leagues,” Director of Sportsbook Product for DraftKings Lexi Janson said. “We know through our data that when people have a vested interest in a game or sport either through fantasy or betting they are more likely to watch, attend and even purchase merchandise which all leads to positive results for the leagues, teams, and athletes.”
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Comparing The Women’s And Men’s Tournaments
It’s estimated that Americans will wager $3.1 billion on the men’s tournament, according to a report commissioned by the American Gaming Association. The total betting handle for the women’s tournament, which runs at the same time and concludes on April 3, is unknown.
“The action on the women’s tournament remains level with a slight trickle upwards here and there,” Vice President of Race & Sportsbook Operations at The SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas Jay Kornegay said in an interview with NY Sports Day. “The nationally televised games certainly help the women’s games.”
“It’s really unfair to compare the two [events]. The men’s tournament is one of the more popular events each and every year. I would estimate the women’s handle represents approximately 1.5-2% of the men’s tournament.”
DraftKings reports that since the tip-off of the women’s tournament, it ranks in the top 5 of most bet leagues on DraftKings Sportsbook. The men’s tournament is the most frequently bet event. Janson of DraftKings said the most bet women’s teams (by handle) are, in order: Maryland, South Carolina, Texas, Stanford, and UConn. The teams that have attracted the most number of bets are South Carolina, followed in order by Stanford, Iowa State, Texas, and Maryland.
As many as 45 million Americans, says the AGA, will wager on the men’s tournament, with an estimated 20.9 million of them doing so with a sportsbook. Others will put money on the tournament through an unregulated bracket competition, but Kornegay said most of the bets the Superbook takes on the women’s tournament are from “educated bettors.”
“We get very little recreational play,” Kornegay said. “But maybe that will change one day.”
That’s big money: New York March Madness betting handle could be $2.2 billion
More Opportunities Coming For Women’s College Basketball Sports Betting?
One of the disadvantages for women’s college hoops is the slim pickings of televised regular-season games.
“It is still not nearly as popular as the men’s game or tournament, but it really doesn’t have to be,” Walker said. “I think it’s still a huge event and a great wagering event.
“[We’re] committed to booking more of the regular season, and I think you will see that next season. My dream 30 years ago was that someday we would book all or most of the women’s games, and I believe we have the right technology and information to bring that now.”
Walker views a future when women’s college hoops will be appreciated for its style of play, attracting bettors who get to know and enjoy the game. That includes the excitement of a second March Madness tournament.
“I really think it is going to get better and bigger every year,” Walker says.