Gaming Society Adds Jeter And WNBA Stars To Board, Forms UNLV Partnership

Collaboration seeks to better understand women sports bettors

Gaming Society, a relatively new company focused on inclusivity in sports betting and co-founded by Kevin Garnett, added Derek Jeter, Sheryl Swoopes, and Chelsea Gray to its advisory board of directors last week.

The big-name additions come on the heels of the formation of a partnership between Gaming Society and UNLV’s International Gaming Institute (IGI) that will seek to better understand the behavior of female sports bettors.

Jeter’s connection to Gaming Society comes through the company’s other co-founder, Jaymee Messler, who started The Players’ Tribune with Jeter back in 2014. Swoopes, of course, is among the most legendary players in women’s basketball history, winning Olympic gold three times to go with four WNBA championships and three league MVP awards. And Gray, who plays point guard for the Las Vegas Aces, is the reigning WNBA Finals MVP who’s won two league titles and an Olympic gold medal of her own.

“There’s a real need for betting education, not just amongst fans but amongst athletes too,” Gray said in a press release. “The opportunities in the sports betting and gaming space are endless — and women’s sports stand to benefit immensely through this innovative approach to fan engagement.”

This is where Gaming Society’s UNLV partnership comes into play. In a separate press release, the IGI’s executive director, Brett Abarbanel, said, “We have aligned goals in exploring how betting can support the growth of women’s sports in a sustainable, responsible manner. We look forward to collaborating on this under-discussed area in our existing educational programs, including IGI’s International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking.”

Defining women

Speaking to US Bets last month, Abarbanel explained that she and Gaming Society started having discussions last fall.

“Dr. Nancy Lough, who runs our sports research and innovation initiative, the managing and marketing side of that, she’d been doing research in women’s sports for her entire career,” Abarbanel said. “She mentioned to me that there was only one dedicated center for the study of women’s sports in the whole U.S. — and that’s more for performance. It’s the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. There’s nothing on the business of women’s sports, and sports management has long been Nancy’s biggest interest.”

Abarbanel said she and Lough will spearhead the research component of the partnership, while Gaming Society will amplify their work “on the media side.” 

“We can work with some different market research groups to access who these women are who are betting on sports, what their motivations are, what they like about different sites,” she explained. “Since we made this announcement, I’ve had outreach from a couple different groups offering up their data — everything from player behavior to payments and banking instruments — to think through how women sports bettors spend their money through the broader scope of gambling.”

The partnered entities hope to announce a concrete research plan within the next few months, said Abarbanel, who added, “The idea is we’ll start out a little more qualitatively — what unique elements of betting might be able to contribute to women’s sports — then to think through different marketing or sponsorship plans that might contribute to that.”

The aforementioned IGI conference, which will take place May 23-25 in Las Vegas, would seem an ideal setting at which to unveil a fuller plan. Abarbanel described the triennial event, which got its start in 1974, as “a true geekapalooza” of gambling enthusiasts where about 60% of the participants are employed in academia. She said the IGI and Gaming Society plans to host a “Bet On Women” session as part of the proceedings.

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images


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