Olympic Betting Sees Niches, not Riches in First Post-PASPA Games

·3 min read

Americans’ long wait to bet on an Olympic mixed doubles table tennis match using their phones is finally over.

Three years after PASPA’s repeal opened the door for states to legalize sports wagering, Olympic action is being offered to more than 100 million people across more than 20 states. But while bookmakers plan to offer a potpourri of Olympic lines and promotions amid a customer acquisition battle, executives aren’t expecting massive interest.

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A recent study by the American Gaming Association found 8% of respondents planned to bet on the Games, with half of them expected to do so among friends rather than with a bookmaker.

Time zone differences, a lack of familiarity with many of the sports and athletes, as well as varied state rules will keep some away. “The Olympics are more of a watching event than a betting event,” SuperBook Sports executive vice president Jay Kornegay said. “We put a buffet of wagers up on the board, and the action just trickles in.”

Ten states have allowed for full Olympic betting, while others are limiting the action to more mainstream sports like basketball, soccer, tennis and golf. In many states, betting providers have been working up until this summer getting additional events approved. Bookmakers are also offering event-long odds on things like total medals won. “Most Americans get very energized by the medal count race—that’s been very popular,” FanDuel chief marketing officer Mike Raffensperger said.

Kornegay said the “USA medals won” over/under bets haven’t been lopsided in the patriotic direction. “You also have the contrarians,” he said, “who think they’re being sharp, thinking that we inflated the numbers… That just isn’t the case.” Men’s basketball has also proved a popular offering, with Team USA’s odds sliding due to their exhibition woes from -750 to win gold down to -350 ahead of the Olympic tournament, and all the way to -225 after their loss to France Sunday.

For dedicated bettors in the right states, though, the Olympics offer a bevy of options during what is otherwise a slow period in the sports calendar. A year ago, the pandemic sparked a table tennis betting craze. This time around, betting providers don’t want to miss the next wave.

DraftKings sportsbook operations director Johnny Avello singled out badminton as potentially interesting, as well as fencing and judo for the MMA fans already using the app. “I’m going to see who is betting what sports besides the major ones,” he said.

PointsBet sports analytics director Jay Croucher added, “Anything we can offer, we will be offering.” His team is sorting out how to accurately price events, ranging from canoeing to equestrian.

Of course, the linemakers can’t lose sight of what’s around the corner: sports gambling’s behemoth, football. Plenty of NFL futures odds are already out. Even the lowly Hall of Fame Game will pull more betting interest than all but the biggest Olympic events.

“The Olympics is a great way to keep our customers engaged and attract new people,” Raffensperger said. “But we have an eye on the football season coming our way.”

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