Nevada Gaming Commission Approves Vegas Strip Betting on Olympic Games
The Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday approved Olympics sports betting for Las Vegas this week. Olympic betting is a commonplace in several other western nations, but in the United States, it has been discouraged, because the Olympic Games have been seen as a showcase for the amateur athletes.
Nevada has decided to move away from its traditional stance, because professional athletes play in almost every Olympic sport these days. It is hard to justify banning Olympics betting on Lebron James and Mason Crosby, when gamblers can wager on those same players 90 to 100 times a year in their pro leagues. Even those athletes who are technically amateurs often have endorsement deals which stretch the bounds of what an amateur is.
Besides a lingering sentimentality about so-called amateur sports, bookmakers have traditionally been concerned about the integrity of the outcome of Olympic events, if betting was taking place. While the US sports market has been relatively free of point-shaving and match-fixing scandals in the past 25 years (post-Pete Rose), the international sports scene has faced a number of major controversies. Those concerns traditionally have been in European football (soccer) and cricket.
No Concerns about Integrity
That aspect of the issue was discussed in great detail by the Nevada Gaming Commission. They see no inherent reason the games would be compromised, though it is harder to police thousands of athletes from over 150 countries. Still, those concerns will exist whether betting is taking place in Las Vegas or not. The answer from the perspective of Nevada’s role in such situations is stronger safeguards at the sportsbooks themselves. New technology allows the sportsbooks to track betting much better than it did just a few years ago.
Officials with the Gaming Commission say that concerns about the integrity of the games are non-existent. Gambling on the Summer and Winter Olympics has happened for the last several set of games and no problems have occurred. The Gaming Commission said Nevada casinos will be directed to monitor for suspicious gambling activity, what the Commission calls “unnatural money”, like they are trained to do with other sporting events.
Jimmy Vaccaro, a Las Vegas insider, told Olympic news site Around the Rings, “You’re not going to be able to walk up to a window and bet $200,000 on USA to beat Bulgaria.”
William Hill 2016 Summer Olympics Odds
Within minutes of the announcement by Tony Alamo, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, the UK bookmaker William Hill released a odds for the many events at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
William Hill set the United States as the favorite to win the most gold medals. In 2012, the United States had the most medals with 104, beating out 2nd place China (88) and 3rd place Russia (81). The host country tends to garner more medals than usual, because of the emphasis and money placed on training for native Olympics, familiarity with the setting and venues, and support from local audiences. Great Britain was 4th with 65 medals. Brazil, the host company for 2016, tied for 15th with 17 medals.
Usain Bolt a Favorite
Jamaican runner Usain Bolt is the favorite to win the 100 meter sprint, which would be his third straight Gold Medal in the event. The United States’ Serena Williams and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic were installed as favorites to win the Gold Medal in Womens Tennis and Mens Tennis, respectively.
Brazil is considered the favorite to take the gold in men’s soccer. A Gold Medal would be a tremendous turnaround after the disastrous end to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but it would be a pale consolation to losing the only World Cup likely to be played in Brazil for 50 years.
Unknown Whether Judge-Based Sports Will Be Included
It has not yet been announced if Olympic events like gymnastics and diving will be among the betting. Events with judges are deemed inherently more corruptible, because judges presumably can be influenced. During the Cold War, judges from the Eastern Bloc nations were thought to give advantages to gymnasts from communist countries. In the 1988 Korea Olympics, Hall of Fame boxer Roy Jones lost a certain Gold Medal when his North Korean opponent was given an inexplicable victory–later explained when records in the former Soviet Union showed the judges had been payed off.
Professional boxing is known for its corruption, but the biggest championship boxing matches can be wagered upon at the Las Vegas sportsbooks. Boxing has an advantage over a sport like gymnastics, though, because a fighter can circumvent the judges by knocking out their opponents–unlike in Olympic gymnastic (though Tonya Harding might disagree).