Sportsbooks are Missing out on a Key Demographic: Women. But It’s Changing.

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In the past five years, sports betting has exploded in the United States. Americans have spent well over $125 billion wagering on sports in the four years since the Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize it. One in five Americans has placed a bet on sports, according to the Pew Research Center

In 2021, sports betting apps saw a 115% spike in women users, as 4.6 million new female users joined. Of that, 1.7 million were on FanDuel alone. Still, men on sports betting apps are outnumbering women by 250%. When you consider that women make up nearly half of all sports fans, the gap in the sports betting world shows. 

Clearly, sportsbooks are missing out on a huge percentage of the potential market.

At Gaming Today, we wanted to understand why – and how sportsbooks could change that. So, we reached out to two influential women in the sports tech and media world: Siska Concannon, co-Founder and CMO at Affiliated Sports Fans, and Meghan Chayka, co-Founder of Stathletes

We asked them their thoughts on the growth of women users in sports betting and the obstacles and opportunities for the future. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity or length. 

Women in the Sports Betting World

Gaming Today: Men still outnumber women in sports betting. Why does it matter?

Siska Concannon (pictured right): In this country, we have a much bigger issue around propelling women forward in the world of sports. I think gambling plays an incredibly important role in driving sports interest – because it really is that extension of fandom and entertainment.

To sportsbooks, it should matter because they’re only attracting a small percent of the addressable market. The industry has heavily over-indexed on just focusing on people that are going to bring in as much revenue as possible, not necessarily understanding they could get a lot more revenue – maybe not on a per-player basis, but certainly on a totality – if they engage more of the audience. If you only want to attract people that know what they’re doing, you can do that, but then you have to be okay with only attracting 10% of the addressable market.

GT: What do you think are the biggest opportunities for growing sports betting among women?

Meghan Chayka: I think there are opportunities at every turn. The market is very nascent in building or marketing to the women demographic. Everything from campaigns to content to products can be improved for women bettors.

I get a lot of notes from women when I do sports betting segments. They will sometimes even screenshot my bet on the app and send it to me (unprompted). It’s a personal experience, but it says to me that women are engaging in the market. So, I think creating a community of women that bet on sports would be a big opportunity for whoever can figure out what works to make it more social.

Concannon: Nearly 50% of NFL fans are women. That means there is almost parity in sports generally in terms of fans, and that is a HUGE market that is completely untapped.

“If everyone is okay with engaging just 40 percent of the potential market – what is that? I’m much more competitive than that. Why wouldn’t you go for 100%?”

If we want to get even close to parity, we need to do more on the direct action side to really truly engage women and sports fans of all genders. The potential for growth is exciting as we start to look at the industry as more than just sports betting operators and look at the industry more as sports entertainment. Women play a massive role in making decisions to drive the industry and engage new audiences.

GT: What are the biggest obstacles to increasing sports betting among women?

Chayka: The initial adoption of betting. I think once people are comfortable with their understanding – and their user experience matches their expertise – there is more likelihood they continue to bet.

The unknown element of so many sportsbooks on the market (too much choice), new apps that don’t work as well, and phrasing that makes bets harder to understand can turn off anyone that is newer to the space (including women).

Concannon: Some of this is the newness of the market, but in the US, a lot of the decision-making – even the nuanced decision-making of design, UX, etc. – have primarily been designed by white men, and they attract that demographic.

It certainly hasn’t been thought of in terms of: “How do we bring more women into this product?” How do we look at it in a more holistic manner in terms of advertising, in terms of who is speaking about sports betting, and in terms of how we speak about it?

For many women – whether you call it societal influence or genetics – we don’t have the luxury to take risks, and we are told that from a very young age. So if we’re going to enter into a traditional or culturally male space, we need to feel that there’s no risk to us in any sort of status or safety way. Whatever the risk is, you need to reduce that to drive them through.

Again, that’s why we need more women in decision-making positions – product decisions, marketing decisions, operational decisions. Because men fundamentally don’t understand the nuances women experience.

What Needs to Change

GT: What do you see as the best solutions or even the first steps to seeing that change?

Concannon: For the app space, you can have [features that educate new users] like asking: “Are you experienced with sports betting, yes or no?” “Would you like a quick tutorial, yes or no?” Then the app could be designed to guide you by asking questions like, “Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?” They could give you the two teams, and whoever you select, you can go to the next page, and it says, “You just made a moneyline bet.”

At the retail level, firstly, make them bright! Secondly, have a little bit more thought process around how to structure a sportsbook. And thirdly and more importantly, have a section where there is a kiosk or tellers to help new sports bettors.

I remember one time I was at a sportsbook in Vegas, and it was about ten minutes before kickoff, and there was a massive line, and people were pissed off. I remember going up to the guy at the front, and he was rudely yelling, “What do you want!” If I was trying to make a bet for the first time, that would be a “hell no” from me! They needed a section where you could go if you weren’t as familiar with a bet yet. It gives that experience of “Anyone can be in here, and we welcome everyone.”

Chayka (pictured right): The first step is having companies prioritize the women’s demographic just like they have with certain segments of the male population. The amount of capital and product features should have elements specifically targeted to feedback from this subset.

I also think someone that builds specifically for women or women’s sports could drive change in what is now a niche market.

GT: Can women sports bettors bring more parity to women’s sports in general?

Chayka: I see the potential for both an increase in the women bettor demographic and also in betting on women’s sports.

I think it is a market that should be part of the betting experience, and there should be a greater focus on women’s sports data and the integrity of data sets.

“I think people are not considering that women’s matches/games are equally deserving of attention. But to make it easier on sportsbooks, the infrastructure has to be improved in these leagues.”

Concannon: I think that there is a huge, intersectional impact around gambling and women’s sports and getting to some level of parity, ideally with men’s.

The argument’s always a little bit chicken and egg, like, “Well, when there’s interest in women’s sports, we’ll cover it.” I think the sports betting industry has a huge amount of power in that. Let’s not do lip service to it, let’s move forward and take direct action to engage women bettors and, at the same time, invest more in women’s sports.

I know some incredible women’s sports influencers that are brilliant, and I think the onus is also on them. I appreciate that a lot of their focus has to be on what’s most popular to drive them more audience – but I would argue that all together, we should be aiming to drive more attention to women’s sports: sports betting has to drive it, influencers have to drive it, and the media will follow.

The Experts

Siska Concannon is a lifelong sports bettor with 20 years of experience in global strategic and operational marketing, most recently focused on the sports and casino gambling industry. As VP of Penn Interactive, she led the marketing strategy and operation for 15 online casinos and two major sportsbooks in the US. Concannon grew up in Australia, where sports betting was normal for all genders. The experience strongly influenced her approach to the game today – and her understanding of sports betting as a form of sports entertainment.

Meghan Chayka is a data scientist and co-founded Stathletes, an ice hockey analytics firm. Stathletes provides win-making insights for more than 22 leagues across the world and works with some of the most elite organizations in sports. Chayka has won numerous awards and recognitions for her innovation in sports, media, and tech and is on the board of advisors for U.S. Integrity in the sports betting space. She is also the data scientist in residence at the University of Toronto.

More from Hannah Vanbiber: Women Sports See Historic Growth in ’22 | Sportsbooks Behind Ball on Women’s Soccer

About the Author
Hannah Vanbiber

Hannah Vanbiber

Hannah Vanbiber is a writer for Gaming Today and New York Sports Day. She started her journalism career in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a reporter covering local sports, entertainment, and business in the East Tennessee area. She is now a full-time freelance writer, editor, and reporter, covering women’s sports and sports betting in the New York metropolitan area.

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