The Caitlin Clark Effect: The #1 Pick Could Jumpstart WNBA Betting

Posted on January 6, 2024 - Last Updated on January 8, 2024

Women’s basketball fans in the Hoosier State rejoiced when the Indiana Fever won the 2024 WNBA Draft Lottery on Dec. 10.

Clearly, their home team had first dibs on the nation’s best women’s college basketball player. That is, of course, Iowa guard Caitlin Clark.

Even the CEO of Jiffy Lube of Indiana pled for the guard to forego her fifth year of eligibility. He told retail locations to post this message on marquees: “Caitlin, please join the Fever.”

The state’s leading daily newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, ran several stories about her after the draft lottery. That included a column titled “Caitlin Clark to Indiana Fever would change this city, that franchise.”

However, basketball fans weren’t the only ones rejoicing. Indiana online sportsbooks could be just as happy for the development. If the current Hawkeye becomes the newest member of the Fever, Indiana bettors might wager more on the WNBA.

Clark dominated the collegiate ranks

Last year, Clark swept every National Player of the Year Award. Additionally, she led her Iowa squad to a Final Four appearance.

Her dominant performances on the court sparked a surge in women’s basketball betting in Iowa. In other words, bettors just couldn’t ignore her dominance.

On the fandom front, the fervor was strong as Hawkeye faithful followed the team in droves. Thousands traveled from Iowa to Seattle and finally to Dallas to see the triple-double maven.

The team shattered home attendance records last season. This season, tickets for 2023-24 campaign were sold out in August, months ahead of the season’s start.

With Clark listed as the top pick on every reputable mock draft board, she could help create a significant ripple in the already surging WNBA betting handle.

Women’s basketball betting action by the numbers

BetMGM and FanDuel reported an upward trajectory in women’s basketball betting on the college and pro level in the past two years.

With an average of 6.5 million viewers, the 2023 Women’s Final Four set a record as the most viewed women’s college basketball semifinals and finals on record.

This was an 87% increase from the previous year. The on-court drama of the Final Four, complete with trash talking, between Clark and LSU star Angel Reese, helped propel storylines that kept fans transfixed and no doubt translated into more betting on the games.

For BetMGM, the women’s March Madness betting handle increased by 30%. The sportsbook also had a 22% increase in active bettors for the season’s last three games. According to the sportsbook, it was the first time that “betting action on the women’s NCAA tournament was comparable to an NFL game.”

WNBA action also increased

On the WNBA front, BetMGM had a 27% year-over-year increase in active bettors. This was in sync with the league’s record increase in viewership and attendance in 2023.

“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,” BetMGM Sports Trader Seamus Magee said.

FanDuel’s statistics for women’s basketball are even more eye-popping than what BetMGM experienced.

  • The sportsbook had a 192% increase in WNBA handle from 2021 to 2022.
  • Active bettors grew 135% in the same period.
  • For 2023, Fan Duel reported a 100.8% increase in handle from the 2022 regular season.
  • A total of 66 games had a handle that exceeded $1 million, including three games with a handle of over $2 million.
  • In contrast, in 2022 only seven games surpassed a $1 million threshold.
  • Player prop bets exploded with a 2240% increase in handle and a bet count up by 2097%.

FanDuel’s WNBA bettors also set records on wagers for postseason awards.

  • WNBA Championship winner: bet count: up 423%, handle: up 79%
  • WNBA Finals MVP winner: bet Count: up 671%, handle: up 324%

What does this mean for Indiana?

The Fever, who have the first pick in the draft for the second consecutive year, are loaded for a breakout season. In 2023, they showed promise under a new head coach, Christie Sides, and WNBA Rookie of the Year, Aliyah Boston, putting up impressive numbers.

The team suffered several dismal years when home-state legend, Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Stephanie White, left the head coaching job in 2016 for the college ranks. Eventually, she returned to the league as the Connecticut Sun head coach.

The Fever saw an uptick in fans last season with its cast of talented rookies. If Clark joins the team in 2024, expect those crowds to swell. Look for Indiana’s WNBA betting handle to grow as well.

Will Clark leave the NCAA?

Clark has a big decision made even tougher by the fact that she continues to collect lucrative NIL deals. She signed with Gatorade the same week the Fever won the draft lottery.

The All-American already has deals with Buick, Nike, H&R Block and Hy-Vee. Her total NIL valuation is approximately $783,000.

This season, the multifaceted player continues to make headlines as the nation’s leading scorer, averaging 30.2 points per game. She is second in the country in made-three-pointers and assists.

Currently ranked No. 4 in the country, Iowa began its Big Ten slate on Dec. 30. Fans in Indiana will see Clark play twice before March Madness. The Hawkeyes travel to Purdue on Jan. 10 and take on Indiana University on Feb. 22.

Once the Big Dance starts, the countdown until the end of the season and the April 15 WNBA Draft begins.

The Fever’s home opener is May 16 against the New York Liberty, the team with the second-highest BetMGM betting handle in the league in 2023, behind the reigning champions, the Las Vegas Aces.

Photo by AP Photo / Noah Murray
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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 as a result of that passion.

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