SPORTSBOOKS AIM TO BOOST OLYMPIC SUMMER GAMES BETTING



Betting on the Olympics always has paled in comparison to the pomp and circumstance of the global extravaganza itself but this year sportsbooks are hoping that, with some innovative offerings, they can transform the five ring athletic competition into a three ring circus of wagering.

Unlike, say, the Super Bowl, where hardcore pointspreads and totals give way to a bevy of proposition wagers as the big event draws nearer, because gamblers know so little about the participants, oddsmakers and sportsbooks work the Olympics in reverse, offering a series of mostly generalized props until their betting audience becomes more familiar with the athletes scheduled to compete in the Summer Games in Beijing, China, starting August 8.

So, while odds on how many medals American swimmer Michael Phelps wins and which countries take home gold in team sports such as basketball and soccer are sure to follow, for now at least, gamblers will have to get an early betting jump on the games in a number of other ways.

Two staples of Olympic betting-which nation will amass the most total medals and which country will take home the most gold neckwear-—already are posted on several sportsbook web sites. Interestingly, while the powerful team from the United States is a 2/3 favorite to win the most total medals, host country China is a 1/2 favorite to collect the most Gold Medals. Team USA is a 3/2 second choice to win the most gold while China is even money to win the most total medals. Russia is third in both categories at odds of 20/1.

We're still more than three months from the start of the Games but bet takers are offering a wager on the representative of which country is first to break a world record in track and field. The USA leads the listed countries at odds of 7/4 with Russia next at 5/2, China at 5/1 and Germany at 33/1. The real favorite though is “other,” quoted at odds of 3/2.

You also can get 16/1 on anyone winning four or more Gold Medals in the track and field competition.

While we couldn't find any future book prices for team sports such as soccer or basketball, some sportsbooks have odds on which two teams will meet for the Gold Medal in men's and women's volleyball.

Brazil would seem to have the upper hand (or spike) in each category. There are 23 combinations on the men's side with Brazil versus Russia listed as the 2/1 favorite. Brazil against the USA is 19/2. At odds of 250/1, the longest shot on the board is Poland versus Spain.

On the women's side, Brazil versus China is 5/1 with a Brazil versus USA Gold Medal match offered at 20/1. Among the 26 listed matchups, a pairing of Cuba versus Serbia would produce the largest payoff, 300/1.

Although we couldn't give a shuttlecock about the sport, we did find one Internet wagering site that actually had future book odds on the men's badminton winner. Sorry, you're on your own here.

And British sportsbooks, displaying a bit of stiff upper lip parochialism, were offering odds of 20/1 on the UK's Andy Murray leaving Beijing with any color medal in tennis.

The cache of the title of “World's Fastest Man” has prodded sportsbooks into issuing odds for the Olympic 100 meter dash. American Tyson Gay, who recently ran 9.84, is a 6/5 favorite to beat Jamaican Asafa Powell, the 7/4 second choice, who owns the world record for the distance at 9.74. This may be the only event that takes less time to complete than it does to place your bet.

As spring bleeds into summer and the Olympic Games draw closer, look for bookmakers to add dozens of events to their wagering rosters, including many in track and field and swimming, as well as a number of team sports. If history is a guide, they'll also have a little fun along the way, offering an over/under prop on the number of positive tests for banned or illegal substances.

Olympic betting should be as varied and interesting as the Games themselves.