This week BetMGM reported a 27% year-over-year increase in active WNBA bettors on its platform thanks to players like Duke alumna Chelsea Gray and her WNBA-champion Las Vegas Aces.
This trend comes on the heels of a 2023 Women’s Final Four that saw record numbers in viewership, betting handle, and even higher ticket prices than the men’s tournament semifinals.
While North Carolina’s WNBA franchise, the Charlotte Sting, is no more, women’s basketball is strong in the Tar Heel State. With North Carolina online sports betting expected next year, players like Gray can lead a wave of female WNBA bettors as North Carolinians enter the legal sports betting market.
Women’s sports continue upward wagering trend
Given the success of the women’s NCAA tournament and a surge in popularity of other women’s sports, it’s no surprise that the WNBA is garnering more interest from bettors. BetMGM also experienced a 40% year-over-year rise in women’s golf and tennis. And, while the U.S. didn’t win the FIFA Women’s World Cup this past summer, Team USA attracted most of the betting handle.
For women’s March Madness, BetMGM saw a 30% increase in handle compared to 2022 with a 22% rise in active bettors. The wagering action for the women’s basketball tournament was comparable to an NFL game, a first for BetMGM.
Chelsea Gray’s Aces Lead the Pack in WNBA Betting Action
The two best teams in the league, the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces, drove the increase in WNBA betting handle. Dubbed as super teams even before the season began in May due to their stacked rosters of Olympians, former MVPs, and All-Stars, the Aces and the Liberty have lived up to the preseason hype.
For BetMGM, the Aces attracted 36.6% of the total handle with the Liberty coming in second at 23.2%. Both teams are competing in the semifinals of the playoffs now and dominated the league during the regular season setting franchise records for wins.
“The New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces is our dream matchup for the finals and could generate some serious action,” BetMGM sports betting trader Seamus Magee said. “The worst outcome is anyone besides the two clear favorites, the Liberty and Aces, winning it all. Handle is steadily picking up as the playoffs progress. The expansion of legalized sports betting and the WNBA’s most-watched regular season in over two decades are definitely key factors driving the increase.”
Though Gray’s followers back in Durham won’t be able to bet on her during this year’s WNBA finals, NCSharp agrees with Magee. North Carolinians will surge into the legal sports betting market when the state launches online sports betting. We project that North Carolina could generate $6-$7 billion in total bets in the state’s first year of legal sports betting.
Las Vegas looks to repeat with Duke alumna Chelsea Gray at floor general
Before the season, all the major sportsbooks including BetMGM, had the Aces leading the way in futures odds for the 2023 championship. The point guard for Las Vegas is a familiar face to North Carolina women’s basketball fans.
Gray, an Olympian and the 2022 Finals MVP, is the floor general for the reigning champions. Aces forward/center and South Carolina graduate A’ja Wilson is the Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. Wilson was the MVP last season.
Women’s basketball capitalizing on rise in betting activity
Given the sports betting interest over the summer season, the WNBA Finals should cap a banner year with a high note for the league and sports betting operators. The championship series begins Sunday, Oct. 8 with the Game 1 tip set for 3 p.m. ET on ABC.
The league’s front office is aware of the heightened interest in wagering activity. This season marked the first time the WNBA included odds for each game on its website. While FanDuel became the official sports betting partner of the league in September 2022, a few teams have their own separate partnerships with operators. Previously, MGM Resorts International was the WNBA’s official gaming partner with FanDuel being the daily fantasy partner.
“If you’ve seen the data,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told Hoopfeed.com before the 2022 WNBA finals, “more women are betting and our fan base skews more women, younger, more digital native. So, we are excited for that as an opportunity, certainly in the markets in which we operate right now in the 12 states. It’s not legal everywhere where we operate yet, but it’s provided opportunities.”
Women bettors in North Carolina could create a wave of women’s sports betting
North Carolina won’t see any WNBA games come through the Tar Heel State, but they will get a chance to see the USA Women’s National Basketball Team come through Durham in November.
The US Women’s National Team will take on the Duke Women’s basketball team on Nov. 12.
With players like Gray pushing the envelope of women’s basketball, North Carolina could see a rise in women’s sports bettors when the market goes live.
Image Credit: Tony Gutierrez / AP Images