Betting spiked 540% during Caitlin Clark’s March Madness games

Close up of a basketball with the march madness logo on a basketball court
Image: Shutterstcok

Caitlin Clark mania swept the U.S. during March Madness and Optimove has the betting numbers to back it up,

Analysis of betting activity by Optimove’s analytical and research arm, Optimove Insights, found that wagering increased 540% on average on games featuring the Iowa Hawkeyes standout.

Clark made history during March Madness when she broke the NCAA all-time points scoring record for men’s and women’s college basketball, before being selected first by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Draft. She averaged 28.4 points, 8.2 assists, and 7.1 rebounds throughout her four-year college career.

Optimove says that its data underscores the “influence of star players on betting and behavior.”

“As the WNBA season is about to tip off on May 14, it is doing so, with a generational player,” added Optimove VP of Marketing Rony Vexelman. “The substantial boost in overall interest in women’s basketball catalyzed by Caitlin Clark is extraordinary.  Her influence on boosting betting, TV viewership and more is already starting to drive a new women’s basketball economy in the trillions.” 

The Caitlin Clark effect

Optimove dubbed the impact the star had on the tournament as the “Caitlin Clark effect”, similar to “The Jordan Effect” which was coined following estimations by Fortune Magazine in 1998 that Michael Jordan had had a $10 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

The company examined betting on games from the elite eight stage of the women’s tournament onwards and compared volume to the comparative baseline game of Oregon State vs South Carolina, which received the fewest bets among the games tracked.

Betting increased on average by 195% compared to the baseline on games not featuring Clark, significantly less than the aforementioned 540% increase observed when she was on the court. Betting volume peaked at an increase of 620% over the baseline during the tournament’s championship game when Clark’s Iowa was beaten 87-75 by South Carolina.

Men get more bets but women get more viewers

Optimove performed a similar analysis on the men’s March Madness tournament and found that betting volume peaked at 139% compared to the baseline game. The company attributed this smaller increase to the greater volume of individual bettors on men’s games compared to women’s games. 

The study revealed that, despite the spike in betting on Iowa games, women’s contests at March Madness still attracted a much smaller number of bets than the equivalent games on the men’s side of the tournament.

Iowa’s Final Four victory over Connecticut attracted 37% of the number of bets compared to the men’s Final Four average, and this number dropped to just 28% for the national championship game. 

Despite this, the figures show that the women’s national championship game attracted more viewers than its male equivalent. The game had an average of 18.7 million viewers compared to 14.8 million viewers for the men’s finale. 

March Madness fuels strong wagering figures

Both New York and North Carolina reaped the benefit of one of America’s most popular sporting events.

The New York State Gaming Commission reported a $539.6 million online sports wagering handle for the week ending March 24, the second-highest weekly handle in state history. The Empire State posted these strong results behind the first week of the tournament.

Similarly, March Madness aided a strong start to online sports betting in North Carolina.  Geolocation solution provider GeoComply reported a 46% week-over-week increase in online sports betting activity in the state on the first day of March Madness as well as a 46% uptick week-over-week in unique active accounts across the state.