Nevada casino sportsbooks will accept bets on the Olympic Games for the first time in 16 years when the Rio Summer Games get underway on Aug. 5.
In February 2015, Nevada gaming regulators gave their blessing to Olympic wagering, something the state’s sportsbooks used to offer until it was revoked in 2001 after Sen. John McCain decided that the ‘amateur’ Olympic athletes were being exploited by someone other than the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
UK sportsbooks have been offering Olympic betting markets for a while now, and the 2012 Summer Games in London performed better than bookies expected, although the books definitely benefited from the intense national interest that comes with hosting the event.
While Nevada books are indeed happy with their new/old toy, nobody expects it to be a Super Bowl-type windfall. Experts told the Los Angeles Times that statewide Olympic betting handle could range from $20m to $30m, which at its peak would represent less than 10% of what the books handled in the month of May.
The books plan to keep limits low, but Westgate Superbook director Jay Kornegay acknowledged that sharps will still pounce if the books get the lines wrong. And given their unfamiliarity with many of the Olympic events, Kornegay said the books will offer “a very selective menu” of betting options.
The UK books took the greatest volume of action on football and, while US bettors are less interested in the beautiful game, roundball is another story. MGM Resorts sportsbook director Jay Rood predicted that 70% of all Olympic wagers would be placed on men’s basketball.
Kornegay believes the average Olympic basketball game will generate handle on par with “a low-tier college game.” Even assuming that the US men’s team qualifies for the final, Kornegay expects handle to be “10%, maybe less” of the average wagered on an NBA final game.