With the passage of an expanded sports betting law in June, sports betting among women in North Carolina could see an upswing.
The law not only legalized online sports betting in North Carolina, but it also allows for the establishment of retail sports wagering locations at facilities that host franchises of a half dozen professional sports leagues, including the National Women’s Soccer League.
This means that WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary has the potential to house a sportsbook where fans could place bets ahead of North Carolina Courage games.
Women’s soccer popularity and the rise of women’s sport betting
The wave of women’s soccer popularity is rising with record-breaking attendance at international friendlies. Add to that the months-long media buzz ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup now underway in New Zealand and Australia.
Locally, NC Courage is riding that wave. The team went into the World Cup break atop the NWSL East standings and has a total of six players participating in the FIFA competition, including one on the U.S. Senior Women’s National Team. Overall, 61 players from the NWSL are in the World Cup. On top of that, three players with North Carolina ties represented the USWNT at the World Cup.
Additionally, the NWSL is experiencing a banner year.
— Julie Haddon (@julietweets) June 14, 2023
The NWSL broke records at the outset of the season with a 50% increase in opening weekend attendance over last season. At the season break, the league is seeing a 48% rise in attendance overall, plus a 21% jump in viewership via media partner CBS.
Strides in women’s sport betting
The popularity of women’s soccer coincides with an increase in the growth of women’s sports bettors. According to a study of women’s sports betting conducted by the German Sport University Cologne, “women’s soccer is the leading sport in terms of the number of bettors and bets,” with a “particularly marked increase since 2020.”
The study analyzed betting trends in four other sports: basketball, cricket, tennis and volleyball. The growth rates in soccer surpassed those in the other sports, which, in the case of cricket, don’t register yet in the US. The study concluded that consistent growth in major betting indicators “in the 2017-2022 period indicates an increasing interest and investment from bettors on women’s sports.”
Another key finding from the study: “the total volume of bets on women’s sports has grown more among women than men over time.”
However, there is still room for growth. There is less live data for women’s sports. Increasing data coverage could lead to “vast growth potential,” according to the study.
Can WakeMed Soccer Park benefit from growth in women’s soccer?
The capacity of WakeMed soccer park is 10,000 fans. If a retail sportsbook found a home at the stadium, then thousands of fans would have the opportunity to not just bet on NWSL games but other sports as well. It remains to be seen whether the venue partners with an operator to build a retail sportsbook. Around the country, about a dozen sports venues home to pro teams have in-house sportsbooks. Within the NWSL, only one other team plays at a facility with a sportsbook.
FanDuel opened a sportsbook at Audi Field in 2022 in a partnership with MLS’s D.C. United. The NWSL’s Washington Spirit also plays at the field.
In other major women’s professional sports, two teams play at arenas with on-site sportsbooks, and both are in the WNBA. The Phoenix Mercury plays at Footprint Center where FanDuel opened a sportsbook in 2021. The Connecticut Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribe, plays at the arena in the Mohegan Sun casino complex. Mohegan Sun has its own FanDuel-branded sportsbook.
Looking at the trends among women’s sports bettors internationally and state residents’ passion for women’s sports, North Carolina is primed for a strong showing among that demographic. The Courage and several women’s sports teams on the Division I college level in the state are nationally-renowned powerhouses.
Sports betting arrives in NC in the first half of 2024
While expanded sports betting in North Carolina won’t begin until 2024, a frenzy of pre-betting activity is underway as lawmakers, regulators and sports venues get ready.
North Carolina’s sports betting tax rate, 18%, comes in slightly higher than the national average. The state has limited tax breaks for operators and levied significant licensing fees to return a healthy tax revenue to the state.
The Tar Heel State is poised to launch an expansive sports betting market that brings a wave of female bettors into the market and strong revenue into the state.