By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA is entering the daily fantasy sports market.
The league announced a partnership with FanDuel on Thursday — the first time a women’s professional sports league will be available in one-day fantasy games.
“We are constantly looking to innovate by finding new opportunities to engage with our passionate fans and introduce the WNBA to wider audiences,” WNBA President Lisa Borders said. “This partnership with FanDuel and our new one-day fantasy game will be a fresh, unique way for fans to further connect with their favorite WNBA players and teams throughout our season.”
FanDuel will be offering free WNBA contests in which participants can win courtside tickets and merchandise among other things. The NBA in 2014 became the first major pro league to partner with FanDuel.
The site will also have its normal offerings of daily fantasy contests in which people can win money by picking a lineup of WNBA players and pitting them against other players. The WNBA is hoping this new venture brings more fans to the league, which starts its 21st season this weekend.
“We’ve seen fantasy sports as one of the most engaging ways for fans to interact with the game,” WNBA chief operating officer Jay Parry said. “It’s in line with our growth strategy and the announcement we made last week with Twitter. We see this as a way to engage with new fans and expose them to excitement to WNBA. We’re happy that Fanduel recognized the potential and growing interest in women’s sport.”
The announcement comes amid the contraction and reshaping of the daily fantasy sports industry following court and legislative battles last year. A proposed merger between New York’s FanDuel and Boston’s DraftKings — the industry’s two largest companies — is under review.
J.P. Miceli has played on FanDuel since the site first started in 2009. He was intrigued when he learned a few days ago that WNBA games would be offered.
“I figured I’ll give it a shot,” he said.
Miceli said he has seen a few WNBA games on TV, but hasn’t watched the league frequently. He will start watching it more, or at least start checking scores more, once he starts playing the game on the site.
“A large portion of the daily fantasy sports community when they play a game of a particular sport, start to follow that sport more closely,” he said.
Offering the WNBA gives FanDuel another option for its players in the summer when sport choices are light.
“Our users are loyal, love our product, and are highly engaged. We know our players want more opportunities to play more fantasy contests, so bringing new sports like WNBA to our platform is a no-brainer,” FanDuel spokeswoman Justine Sacco said.
DraftKings, the other major daily fantasy sports site, told The Associated Press in an email that they might add WNBA games this summer.
Las Vegas casinos already offer betting on WNBA games and they get some action. There’s about a fifth as much bet on WNBA games as compared to a baseball game, said R.J. Bell, the official odds provider for The Associated Press.
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