WNBA Commish: Indiana’s Clark & Betting Handle ‘Important’ To Sport

Posted on April 16, 2024

The WNBA is set to benefit from a monumental year in sports betting on women’s sports. The same goes for sports wagering in Indiana after the Fever made Iowa University superstar Caitlin Clark the No.1 pick in Monday’s 2024 WNBA Draft.

Household names like Clark entering the WNBA is expected to continue the surge of interest in women’s sports in Indiana and across the county.

Ahead of the draft on Monday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told PlayIndiana that the escalation in wagering would help bring new fans to the WNBA.

“It’s an important way to grow our viewership.”

Household names will fuel popularity of women’s sports

Indiana sports betting is expected to get a big boost after the Indiana Fever chose Clark on Monday. She is arguably the greatest female amateur athlete of all time after she broke “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s record for the most points scored in a college basketball career.

If the upward trajectory in betting on women’s sports is to continue, widespread name recognition is a must, the WNBA commissioner said. The most recent women’s Final Four had unprecedented viewership, ticket prices higher than the men’s side, skyrocketing betting handle, plus highly anticipated rivalry games, Engelbert pointed out. In fact, the title game in the women’s NCAA tournament outdrew the men’s championship in TV audiences.

“The one thing I know about sports, you need household names, rivalries and games of consequence. Those are the three things we’ve had over the past couple weeks, and hopefully will continue into the WNBA season. Certainly, sports betting is something that attracts fans in.”

Certainly, women’s basketball now has household names to boost viewership. If the social media reaction to the “Orange Carpet” entrance of athletes heading into the draft Monday evening in Brooklyn is any indication, athletes like Clark, Angel Reese and Cameron Brink will usher in a new, exciting era for women’s sports.

Clark could be the most recognizable female athlete ever

Clark is by far the nation’s most famous college athlete. She’s more known than any men’s college basketball player. She has already helped increase the betting handle for women’s college basketball with her dynamic play and string of record-breaking performances, leading her to sweep every Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive season.

The semifinal game between her Hawkeyes and UConn had 17.3 million viewers. According to ESPN, it was the “most-watched basketball game (men’s or women’s, pro or college) on record.”

Engelbert said popular athletes like Clark fuel viewership.

“I’m sure a lot of people are paying attention, transcending age, race, gender from that perspective. That’s what these WNBA players coming into this draft tonight are going to do for us. And I think the attention and the views and bringing in another part of a fan base that might not have watched women’s basketball before and now are following these household names.”

Sportsbooks finally targeting bettors who watch women’s basketball

Just a few years ago, some leading sportsbooks didn’t include any odds for women’s college basketball or WNBA games. That has changed. Now, all the top operators have extensive odds available to bettors, including futures.

Ahead of her first season in the WNBA, FanDuel created a futures tab in its sportsbook, “Caitlin Clark WNBA Specials.” It includes:

  • To Lead Indiana Fever in Scoring in the 2024 WNBA regular season
  • First Basket To Be A Made Three Pointer in the 2024 WNBA Regular Season
  • To Average 22+ Points Per Game In 2024 WNBA Regular Season (Must Play 28+ Regular Season Games)
  • To Record 130+ Made Threes in 2024 WNBA Regular Season
  • To Record 3+ Triple Doubles In the 2024 WNBA Regular Season
  • To Record 1+ Made Three In Every 2024 WNBA Regular Season Game (Must Play 28+ Regular Season Games)
  • To Record 10+ Made Threes In Any 2024 WNBA Regular Season Game
  • To Score 50+ Points In Any 2024 WNBA Regular Season Game
  • To Break WNBA Single Game Scoring Record (54+ Points) in 2024 WNBA Regular Season

Bettors at FanDuel Indiana will be able to access these bets. FanDuel is the official sportsbook partner of the WNBA and has a multi-year partnership with the league. BetMGM and DraftKings have also expanded their women’s sports betting options.

Integrity at the forefront

For the first time last season, the WNBA included odds on its website for games. It also has a sports betting section with a primer on wagers and responsible gaming.

Engelbert mentioned rules crafted by the players’ union and league training as some of the ways the WNBA protects and educates players on restrictions related to sports betting and responsible gambling.

“The integrity of the game is No. 1. It will remain No. 1 no matter how the handles grow and things like that. But people are going to bet on our sport, and we do a ton of training from the league, the team perspective. The Players’ Association I know has a ‘rules of the road’ around this. I think it is really important.”

Engelbert pointed out that the league has not had to deal with any problems associated with illegal betting so far.

“We have not, to my knowledge, had issues on that, but we’ll continue to monitor it for sure.”

The WNBA regular season begins May 14 and runs through Sept. 19. Due to the Summer Olympics, there will be a break from July 21 to Aug. 14, when players on national teams travel to the Paris Games.

The Indiana Fever begins play on the road in Connecticut on opening day and returns to Indianapolis for the first home contest of the season on May 16 against the New York Liberty at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The game will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video and WNBA League Pass. Local broadcasts will be announced at a later date.

Photo by AP Photo / Adam Hunger
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Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a contributor for PlayIndiana with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She’s a die-hard women’s basketball fanatic and founded the website Hoopfeed.com as a result of that passion.

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