They are still calling it the “2020 Summer Olympics.” It’s a tradition that the Olympics come every four years, a tradition they apparently don’t want to break for the benefit of the record books. Of course, the Olympics were postponed in 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic. It’s been a year, and the athletes are ready to roll, though a decision has been made to exclude live fans from the proceedings.

The 2020 Olympics are scheduled to start on July 23, 2021, in Tokyo Japan, and continue until the closing ceremony on August 8, 2021. It’s hard to imagine what the opening and closing ceremonies will look like without spectators and with “social distancing” athletes.

Of course, the Games will be broadcasted all over the world for TV viewers. There will also be another interested group of people paying close attention to the festivities. We are referring to a growing population of U.S. sports bettors. For the first time in U.S. sports gambling history, residents in as many as 23 U.S. states will be able to wager legally on the outcome of major Olympic events.

History of Betting in the Olympics

While this will be the first opportunity for U.S. residents to wager on Olympic events in mass, it’s not the first time a U.S. bookmaker has offered odds on Olympic events.

In years gone by, a few of the top retail bookmakers in Las Vegas would post odds on featured Olympic events. For the most part, wagering opportunities would focus on sports like basketball, volleyball, and boxing. In later years, baseball, softball, and tennis would also pop up on the sports betting menus around Las Vegas.

What didn’t happen was Vegas bookmakers putting forth a lot of effort trying to market Olympic betting options. Betting on the Olympic Games was often treated as more of an experiment as opposed to something bookmakers were pushing bettors to do. With that said, the days of experimenting are over.

U.S. Online Bookmakers Advantage

Historically, European online bookmakers had some success with sports betting on the Olympics. Again, most of the betting focus was placed on featured sports. That would include the aforementioned sports, plus the addition of popular European sports like soccer, rugby, Ice Hockey, and water polo. Again, a lot of the less watched events rarely included a wagering option.

Here we are in 2021. The U.S. sports betting industry is exploding. After decades of pent-up demand, sports bettors have been unleashed with a fever for sports betting. It’s the perfect storm for bookmakers to make a push to create an interest in betting on Olympic events this year and in future years.

The key to success for U.S. bookmakers will be a reliance on online/mobile sports bookmakers and bettors to lead the charge. The challenge for bookmakers is to find a way to give bettors easy access to the widest range of Olympic betting markets possible. With over 400 events covering 35 different sports, there is little chance retail bookmakers will be able to post lines on each event/sport. That’s not the case for online bookmakers that are not restricted by space.

Here’s the catch. Retail bookmakers should be able to accept bets on any events that are posted online. It will be up to the bettors to use online sports betting websites to see what is available.

What Betting Markets Will Be Available?

After looking at a couple of major U.S. online bookmakers (BetMGM, DraftKings), there does seem to be a concerted effort to offer wagering opportunities on most if not all sports and events. Of course, some events will get a lot more marketing focus than others. It’s a good bet that the following events will get most of the focus among U.S. sports bettors:

  • Men’s Basketball
  • Women’s Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Boxing
  • Some Track and Field events

There are no surprises on this list. These are sports with which U.S. residents, sports fans, and bettors are most familiar. Of course, avid gamblers are just as likely to wager on swimming and equestrian events just to have a little action going while waiting for the “featured events” to move to the forefront.

As the start of the Olympics draws nearer, it will be interesting to see what future odds betting options will be made available. It will also be interesting to see what events will include live in-game wagering options. Both of these types of wagering options could be very popular during certain Olympic events.

The Handicapping Challenge for Bettors

Experienced sports bettors tend to spend a lot of time handicapping games and events. Finding handicapping data/stats will be a big challenge for U.S. sports bettors. That’s especially true in events where U.S. sports bettors get very little exposure. Seriously. How much money would an astute U.S. sports bettor want to risk on a fencing match?

Still, gamblers like to gamble. If there is access to data on fencing or any other Olympic event, U.S. sports bettors will find it. They will use that information as they seek some kind of wagering value in an effort to get over on bookmakers. The problem is bookmakers always have access to the data they need to make lines. If there are any handicapping advantages to be had by handicappers, they will have to work hard to find them.

This will be the first time U.S, sports bettors will be able to legally wager on Olympic events. It will be interesting to see how things go and what changes will be made for future international events.