Betting on Women

By Jake Gray

Women are still largely under-represented on corporate boards around the world, despite a fair number of recent regulatory measures and efforts which aim at increased diversity in corporate leadership positions. Women in the Boardroom, in the sixth edition of their research, reported that the total number of board seats held by women across 8,648 companies from around the world analyzed increased only from 15% in 2016 to 16.9% in 2018, for example. [1] In 2020, the European Union (EU) revived a proposal for mandatory quotas of women on company boards in order to combat the slow progress of diversity efforts as part of a five-year gender equality strategy. In support of their proposal, EU officials cited the quotas of France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium, all of which have more than a 30% share of women on corporate boards. [2] [3] While there has not been any significant follow-up or measures introduced by the EU since, the proposal does reflect an increasing concern with ensuring company boards are more representative of the workers for which they are charged with leading.

As we take a vertical look at the gaming industry specifically, the largest gaming companies headquartered outside of the United States typically do much better than average in terms of gender diversity on their boards. Ireland’s Flutter Entertainment, for example, whose brands include powerhouses like Paddy Power, TVG Network, Betfair, FanDuel, and more, has five total women board members out of a total of thirteen members. [4] Denmark’s Better Collective, whose brands include Action Network, ScoresAndOdds, and other European-based sports betting platforms, has two women board members out of the six total. [5] The United Kingdom’s Entain, which owns Coral, Ladbrokes, Bwin, and is partnered with MGM in offering BetMGM, has four women board members out of the eleven total. [6]

According to the 2018 Women in the Boardroom report, the United States ranks twenty-second of forty-nine countries in terms of percentage of board members who are women, with a mere 17.6%. [7] While just around the average, this number is a significant improvement from 2014, when only 12.2% of board seats were held by women. Several states have been a force on this front, passing laws with specific representation requirements in an effort to pressure boards to diversify. California was the first to pass such a law in 2016; the law required publicly traded companies to have at least one woman on their board, and by the end of 2021, have at least three women for boards with six or more directors, two women for boards with five directors, and one woman with boards of four or fewer directors. [8] Other states with similar laws include Colorado, Maryland, New York, and Washington State, while others like Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have legislation pending. [9] Companies, not just states, are changing the domestic boardroom landscape as well. Just this August, for example, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved Nasdaq’s proposal that most companies of the nearly 3,000 listed on the exchange have at least one woman on their boards, alongside a racial minority or someone who identifies as LGBTQ+. [10] While there would be no penalty for not doing so, companies would be obligated to explain their noncompliance publicly.

Many gaming companies have already begun efforts to diversify their leadership. FanDuel, for example, has made a serious effort to diversify its leadership by hiring four women senior executives within the last two and a half years. [11] DraftKings, however, has only one woman among eleven senior executives. Despite the fact that DraftKings pales in terms of their number of women senior executives, the company has made efforts to diversify its board—DraftKings has three women directors out of thirteen. [12] Other large U.S. gaming companies have similar numbers. Both Penn National Gaming and Caesars Entertainment have four women board members out of ten total, while MGM has four out of twelve total. [13]

In a male-dominated industry like sports, it is imperative that companies capitalize on the momentum of the efforts of campaigns like the “Bet on Women” campaign started by The Gaming Society and the WNBA Player’s Association in order to make these industries more inclusive. Bet on Women focuses on boosting engagement with women’s sports through a more inclusive sports betting atmosphere. The initiative features partnerships with sports leagues, brands, and sportsbooks to incentivize bettors to wager on women’s sports. [14] Increased sports betting is a well-known driver for media visibility and engagement for the sports on which wagers are placed, which in turn creates new fans and revenue. [15] As a largely untapped sports betting market, women’s leagues, teams, and athletes have already seen a return on this investment. DraftKings, for example, reported that four of the ten most bet-on sports at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were women’s teams, with women’s basketball and soccer taking the second and third positions respectively. [16] Such promising involvement evinces greater demand that can only be realized once women’s sports are given greater visibility and media coverage—people need to watch a sport before they know whether they like it. And Bet on Women looks to bridge that gap in a clever and effective way.

Efforts at diversity in the sports and gaming industries have much improved, but there is undoubtedly still much work to be done. Initiatives like Bet on Women are going to be crucial in striving for and attaining those ideals.

Jake Gray is a graduate of Columbia University and an established technology researcher, currently working in the betting and futures space as a consultant to a variety of operators.