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Mar 18, 2024 12:48 pm

Books see ‘exponential’ surge in women’s NCAA tourney action

caitlin clark, nebraska

From in-person betting to casual office pools, March Madness annually drives the largest audience for sports betting.

The American Gaming Association is projecting Americans to wager $2.72 billion on the NCAA tournaments this year, and that’s just through legalized sportsbooks. It would represent a new record for March Madness wagering and is due in part to “exponential” growth books are seeing on the Women’s NCAA Tournament specifically.

South Carolina is the -135 favorite to win the title at BetMGM and the -120 favorite at DraftKings, where the Gamecocks have been backed by 35 percent of all the money wagered on the national champion so far.

While South Carolina has star-laden depth, Iowa has record-setting Caitlin Clark. The Hawkeyes have the second shortest title odds — +600 at BetMGM and +550 at DraftKings — and the school reported tickets for their first- and second-round games sold out in 30 minutes.

“The growth year on year has been exponential driven by prominent players, like Caitlin Clark, becoming household names and an increase in the number of televised women’s games,” said Matt Cosgriff, BetMGM’s Director of Trading.

The book reported a 25 percent increase in women’s betting from 2022 to 2023, and a 51 percent increase in the number of women who wagered on this year’s Super Bowl compared to last year.

With an expected 250 percent increase in the action on the Women’s NCAA Tournament this year and the money flowing toward South Carolina, Iowa and a handful of other favorites, BetMGM is pulling for an underdog story.

South Carolina has drawn 35.2 percent of the title money at the book, followed by Iowa with 27.1 percent and the Angel Reese-led LSU Tigers at 13.3 percent. The three pre-tournament favorites also represent the book’s three biggest liabilities.

“In the women’s tournament, we need a long shot to win it all — hopefully longer than a Caitlin Clark three,” trading manager Seamus Magee said.

DraftKings is offering a prop bet of South Carolina at -120 against “the field,” with any other team winning the title drawing 97 percent of the money as of Monday afternoon. The next shortest odds beyond the top three favorites belong to Connecticut at +1600, followed by Ohio State at +3000.

Thirty of the 50 states currently offer online wagering with another nine states offering in-person betting. That is an increase of five states from last year, with North Carolina launching legalized sports betting last week, joining Kentucky, Florida, Vermont and Maine in the past 12 months.

The women’s championship game is scheduled for Sunday, April 7 in Cleveland.

–Field Level Media

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