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Women make up 50 percent of the sports fan base in the United States, yet men account for 72 percent of the money wagered legally on sports in the country.

But new data suggests that while more men put money on sports in the US, the women who do place bets fare better. This leads to a number of questions that online gambling companies are interested in as more states legalize sports betting in the country.

Why do more men gamble on sports than women? Are women better at wagering on sports than men? Which sports do they prefer? Is the motivation to gamble their money on sports different for females than males?

Why Do Men Gamble More Than Women?

A US sports gambling study funded by Sports Betting Dime in December of 2019 found that 29.7% of male bettors placed more than $500 in sports bets per month, but only 12.2% of female bettors did. The same research indicated that 65.2% of women who wager on sports regularly in the United States, risk less than $100 per month. This means that roughly 2/3 of all female sports bettors are casual or one-per-month types.

Why is this so?

Data Suggests Women Are More Risk-Averse Than Men

Men may gamble more because they take more risks than women. Consider:

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, independent surveys showed that women were more likely to wear a mask whether it was mandated or not. According to the Centers For Disease Control, women also died at a lower rate than men in the United States from COVID-19, though it remains to be seen whether that has a correlation to women being more likely to wear a mask and/or take risks with their health.
  • Several studies indicate women are more cautious with their financial investments, and that the strategy pays off at a higher rate than more risky strategies employed by their male counterparts.
  • One study from 2019 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal revealed that girls raised in western cultures were less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and that their environment at a young age was crucial in establishing an aversion to risk.
  • The difference between men and women may be tied to whether they are in a matrilineal or patrilineal society. Studies by Dr. Renee Adams from the University of New South Wales’ Australian School of Business indicate that women in cultures where women are dominant in social structures (such as the Khasi region of India, for example) are more likely competitive and more likely to engage in risky strategies. In male dominant societies, such as Europe and the U.S., men are more socially competitive and tend to take more risks. This is a generality of course, and there are exceptions within genders.
  • Some social scientists have speculated that risk aversion among females has a biological origin. They theorize that in ancient cultures men were providers of food and protectors of the tribe, and were forced to employ risky strategies to ensure the survival of their social structure. Women in those cultures engaged in safer responsibilities. In early human populations it may have even been beneficial for females to counter the risky tendencies of males.

Are Women Better Sports Betting Than Men?

Men may gamble more often on sports and for more money than women, but research shows that women have better results. A 2020 study commissioned by 888 Holdings, revealed that women bettors in the state of New Jersey saw a 19.7% return on their bets during the measured period, while men lost 5%.

It may be that women are more strategic about their sports betting, and less emotional due to their aversion to risk. Or perhaps women are more likely to place bets on lower odds events, taking the “sure thing” as opposed to wagering money on longshots. The study by 888 Holdings also showed that female bettors were 74% less likely to place parlay bets, which can be a high risk/high reward activity.

Sportsbook activity by women is largely focused on single bets like the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, or an important college game. That activity may lend itself to better returns. It may be that women are less likely to want to extend a winning streak, feeling more content to pocket their winnings rather than reinvesting that amount.

The groundbreaking study by 888 Holdings also examined casino results, and found that women outperformed men. For example, in the age group 25-34, women lost 12.2% in online casino games, while men lost 23.8%. The contrast was starker for younger gamblers: females aged 18-24 actually won a 30.1% return on their investment in online casino games in the study, and men came in at a dismal -67.3 percent.

Which Sports Do Women Prefer to Bet?

Women Love To Bet On Football And Basketball, Super Bowl

Men or women, it doesn’t matter: football and basketball are easily the most popular sports for betting, according to the research by Sports Betting Dime. More than 75% of men and women bet on the NFL, and more than 40% of males who bet regularly, gamble on college football. Women bet college sports less frequently, at less than 20 percent.

The Super Bowl is king when it comes to betting. More than $136 million was wagered on Super Bowl LV, the fifth-highest figure ever for that marquee event. More than seven out of ten women who placed a bet on sports in the U.S. in 2020 and 2019, according to 888 Holdings, gambled on the Super Bowl. That figure is about the same for men.

It’s interesting to note that while there are more professional female athletes today than there ever have been, the wagering on women’s sports lags far behind wagering on men’s sports. That holds true even for women bettors. Females are only slightly more interested in putting their money on the line for the WNBA, for example (5.2% of women compared to 4.5% for men).

What Motivates Women To Gamble On Sports?

Many women will tell you that they gamble online or at a casino for “entertainment” value. Often, women view a trip to a casino as a social outing and set strict betting limits. As a result of that approach, they don’t feel pressure to win, and may not wager more money than men, which would lead to more risk.

What does that mean? It’s impossible to know for sure, and more studies will need to be run to build more data and insight. But, it points to the possibility that women primarily enjoy gambling on sports for entertainment and socialization, with income as a less important factor.

About the Author
Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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