The Olympics is one of those events that excites people across the globe, and that is partially due to the fact that it only comes around once every four years. Each edition brings something unique to the table too, with exceptional opening and closing ceremonies highlighting the wonders of different countries. You only need to take a look at the London 2012 opening ceremony to see what can be created for audiences around the world to watch. Of course, once this is all over and done with, it’s time to get down to the various sports and the competitors within.
The question remains whether or not you are able to place bets on the different sports and competitors. And if so, are there any specific rules or things that you need to be aware of before proceeding with Olympics betting? Those are both questions that we’ll be looking at here and discovering what sort of markets and odds are available and potential pitfalls to look out for.
If you are interested in betting on the next Olympics (which will hopefully occur in Tokyo this year, should all go to plan), then let’s take a look at what you need to know.
What Olympics Markets Can You Bet On?
The short answer to this question is yes. However, there are certain things that you need to know before you go marching off head-first into placing wagers on the Olympics. It’s good to remember that the Olympics events are all about amateur sports, rather than professional. This makes it very different to placing a bet on the latest golf tournament or the nation’s top football league winner.
Instead, because of these are amateur events, most markets that would usually be available in sports betting may not be present when it comes to betting on the Olympics. You will likely find that markets are restricted to the better known sports and events and within that you may only be able to bet on the outright winner along with a limited selection of other bets. There is also the possibility of placing ante-post bets (bets in advance) on specific competitors or markets, such as, which country you believe will win the most gold medals in the upcoming Olympics.
Typically, that type of bet is published way in advance of the Games actually starting. Bettors will be able to look into the history medals won by each country and make an estimate as to where they think the most will go this time around. When the Games get nearer, it will be possible to place bets on the number of medals that each of the participating nations will win. In this respect, you will find lines such as over/under wager on the United Kingdom or China or the USA, for example, or head-to-head bets, such as, China vs USA who will win the most medals.
Things can get quite a bit more interesting when it comes to betting on specific events, if you are betting on a sport that is widely popular, like football, tennis or basketball for example, then you’ll usually be able to benefit from wagering on similar lines you would find with standard betting. This includes which team you believe will win in a game, whether more than 2.5 goals will be scored etc. As is the case with any type of sports betting, it’s always ideal if you bet on a sport that you already know and are familiar with completely. If you usually wager on badminton and football for example, would now really be the time to place a bet on cycling?
Should you wish to take an interest in betting on something alternative to the norm for you, then it’s ideal to look into it earlier on. By this, we mean you should start researching and learning about ice skating (as an example) several months prior to the Olympics beginning, rather than on the day of the event starting.
Just because Torvill & Dean won gold at the Olympics in 1984 when they danced to the Bolero doesn’t mean that they’re automatically going to win again in 1994 when they returned…which they didn’t. You need to know the sport(s) you’re betting on well in advance of the Olympics.
Things to Remember When Choosing Olympics Bets
An important piece of information you need to be aware of is that while betting on the Olympics is possible, the payouts for the different sports are most likely going to be lower than standard sports betting options. If you were to bet on a typical top league football match for example you would expect a payout limit of at least around £100,000, however, when betting on an Olympics event that could be as low as £1,000. This is something to consider if you place high stakes or bet on long odds.
Couple the low payout limits with higher odds margins and, by default, this means poorer value for the customer compared to betting on professional sports. Taking this into account Olympics betting doesn’t seem quite as enticing as you may have hoped. However, this is all due to the fact that it surrounds amateur sports, and bookies struggle more in pricing up these markets due to lack of data for certain sports or competitors, a higher risk of potential match-fixing and other factors.
There is a perception that the competitors and sports taking place are much the same as what goes on in the professional leagues around the world. Well, in various circumstances, that is true, especially when you consider professional tennis players, basketball players and footballers often compete in the Olympics. These events are special within the Olympics and the clear majority of competitions are contested by true amateurs, many of whom you will never have hear of.
Another big reason that sportsbooks tend to shy away from providing odds on amateur sporting events is because they have much more liability when it comes to suffering from match fixing. Amateur sports, after all, include amateur sportsmen and women. Unlike professional sports, participants in the amateur scene are not paid huge amounts of money to compete.
Betting syndicates will often watch out for those sportspeople, who aren’t the richest in the world. In a bid to take advantage of such a situation, a player or team will happily ‘fix’ certain parts of matches or events in return for a payout from such a syndicate. Of course, amateur participants do earn money through prizes and so on, but they’re not actively paid to both train and take part in matches. Therefore, they’re a lot more vulnerable when it comes to bribes offered by others, and this is something that sportsbooks are very much aware of, and don’t need the aggravation from.
You only need to turn your attention back to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to see that this is something that still goes on. Multiple controversies and accusations of event-fixing were discovered, with the Russian doping scandal being the primary one. Russia has systematically been accused and found guilty of doping, which has resulted in 47 Olympic and masses of world championship medals being stripped from the athletes involved in such. That’s more than any other country in the world. There’s so much information about who has been banned, stripped of medals and so on, that it would take a whole lengthy essay to write it all up.
However, an independent investigation that was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency came to the conclusion that there was evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), the Ministry of Sport, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Centre of Sports Preparation of the National Teams of Russia had all “operated for the protection of doped Russian athletes”.
And it’s not only Russia that has been involved with doping scandals, with participants from other locations being found out to be using enhancement drugs.
Basically, bookmakers see a lot of risk in amateur sports markets and so they reflect this by taking more conservative approach when it comes to odds and payout limits. It is possible to bet on the Olympics but don’t expect the best value or to win huge sums of money on it.
Less Reliable Data Means Generally Worse Odds
The fact that for many sports and events there is little reliable data that odds traders at betting companies can use to price those markets means that many will not be available. Those that are will carry higher margins than standard as this reflects the additional risk the bookie is taking in offering odds on these events.
While they have masses of data to work from when it comes to professional sports, which helps them to define their odds on events, the same cannot be said about the amateur scene. Fans will likely know more about the participants, the events and so on, which has an effect on the odds offered by sports betting sites. It is not uncommon for them to get things wrong on a spectacular level where this is concerned, and those who have knowledge of the events take advantage of these weak odds. Therefore, sportsbooks will either not cover Olympic betting at all, or will offer poorer odds than standard if they do decide to cover it.
The fact that these are amateur events too means there isn’t really any way to force Olympic Games participants to follow any specific code of conduct. While there are rules that are put in place, which participants with integrity and intelligence will follow, others won’t be so willing to do so. Amateur sportspeople aren’t required to sign any sort of contract, and with the lack of payment coming their way for what they’re doing, this means that there’s very little to keep them in line with the rules. All professional sports have a code of conduct that will include betting and match-fixing violations, it is much more difficult to enforce this in amateur sports.
Frankly, amateur sportsmen and women are more likely to accept a bribe if they’re going to get a payout from doing so – especially if they think they won’t win at Olympics. It would be hoped that most competitors would be honourable and disregard any such offer, but it only takes one or two to truly throw things off kilter. Even the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (since postponed to 2021) was accused of a bribery scandal, and such accusations have been rife since the Olympics started out in Ancient Greece.
Bookmakers are all about balancing risk and reward, and they know that they’re suffer some losses. That doesn’t really matter though, as long as the majority of bets land in their favour, as this cancels out the losses suffered. In a bid to ensure that this risk and reward situation remains balanced, they’ll provide low potential payouts on the events that they don’t know very well, limiting their own liability. An unbalanced book is never good for a sportsbook, and if such a site offers too many amateur sports markets, they put themselves heavily at risk.
What to Look For If You Do Bet on the Olympics
If you have the desire to place a wager on one or more Olympics events, then there are certain things to watch out for. Bookmakers can change their terms and conditions from event to event, so it’s always advisable to check out those T&Cs before you place a bet. Look into the stake limits and the payout limits, as most bookies will provide lower stakes and payouts on the amateur sporting events, as mentioned.
Furthermore, be certain you know what you’re betting on. Stick to the sports that you know, look at past events that have occurred in that sporting scene. Furthermore, listen to the experts who know more about those sports, to enhance your own library of knowledge on such. Gather as much information as possible, and then look for weak odds on Olympics events at different sportsbooks.
This may take a bit of time and research, but in the end, it’s much more worth it than simply placing random wagers on different events because you think that’s how things will go. You need to be smart about what you’re betting on. Remember that a sportsbook will usually be out to take all your money for itself, so if you can spot and exploit weak odds on a specific event or sport in the Olympics, then you can highly benefit from it. Just be certain that you’re well-informed and that you’re betting responsibly.
We would also recommend that you analyse outcomes and gameplay that have occurred in previous Olympics events. This way, you’ll be able to understand which nations tend to work towards the Games and then really bring the higher level of competition when it actually matters. Sometimes, competitors can be fairly lacking during local competition, but when the Olympics scene hits, they train hard and manage to garner impressive results.