Olympic Sports Betting Receives the Go-Ahead From Nevada Regulators

2016_Summer_Olympics_logo.svgLas Vegas gambling recently received the green light to expand betting into a new arena–the global Olympic games. As of Thursday, Nevada gambling regulators will permit all state sportsbooks to offer bets on the 2016 Summer games hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Previously, Olympic gambling hasn’t been offered in the United States since Sen. John  McCain’s push to make gambling on amateur events illegal in 2001. Having removed the restriction on betting on in-state schools like UNLV, the Olympics’ gambling go-ahead means a guaranteed increase in gaming revenue for Nevada.

Though, the decision to allow Olympic gambling may be decidedly different. The Olympics gambling permission in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and offshore internet, has created pressure on Nevada’s gambling market. “It wasn’t legal in Nevada. So, they weren’t getting their piece of the pie,” according to ESPN’s gambling writer, David Purdum, something Sin City is not used to.

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The move is expected to make a large impact on the industry’s activity, sending more gamblers to Las Vegas. Quinton Singleton, sportsbook operator CG Technology’s vice president and deputy general counsel, explained, “This is a good thing for the industry and will help drive business during what sometimes can be a slow period (the summer) for the books.”

Gambling excitement buzzed immediately after the regulator’s official decision was reached. Sports book operators and mobile betting apps quickly released odds including national and individual events: Who will win the most gold medals, United States or China? Will Usain Bolt repeat for another gold medal? Now, gamblers can place bets, over a year in advance.

Many individual gambling sportsbooks are excited for the new opportunity. CEO of William Hill sportsbook, Joe Asher, explained, “With more than two out of every three Americans having watched the London Olympics in 2012, the games in Rio have the potential to make a sizable impact in August of 2016, like we saw last June with the World Cup.”

However, through all the excitement, there are still decisions to be made on the gambling permissions for each event, mainly events that include children and teenagers. These decisions are up to Nevada’s Gaming Board Chairman, A.G. Burnett.

As a general rule, gambling events avoid children’s events. In the Olympics, events like gymnastics typically feature teenagers exclusively. Burnett says decisions for each will be made before the Olympics begin.

Other gambling advocates though, bring up cases to in an argument against the ‘age’ rule. South Point Hotel and Casino’s lawyer, Barry Lieberman, makes a distinction about the nature of the event. The Little League World Series, for example, is by nature a children’s event. But an event like horse racing, generally directed towards adults, allows for teenagers as jockeys. “We bet on horse racing, and there are 16-year-old apprentice jockeys running,” Lieberman said. He suggests the differentiation between Olympic sporting events and other adult events, such as horse racing and boxing “would be hypocritical.”

Despite the forthcoming rulings on gambling permissions for specific Olympic events, regulators and gamblers are excited to reprise gambling in Olympic events. The decision to allow Olympic betting was unanimous and even endorsed by the regulators. After receiving the “blessing of the International Olympics Committee,” to do so, regulators perceived the change has “legitimized us in front of the whole world,” according to Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman, Tony Alamo.

Many expect a rising interest Olympic events as well, especially after the long hiatus. Next year’s Olympics offer higher excitement because of the development of certain events as well. Since the last occurrence of Olympic betting in the 90’s, popular sports, such as basketball, are now attended by professionals within the sport. Wynn’s Las Vegas’s book director and odds-maker Johnny Avello, predicted, “Those are going to be your top events.”


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Jared Bates

I have been working in, and with different casinos for over twenty years, and as such I have seen many things happen to gambling online and offline. From Vegas to Atlantic City, and small places in between, my passion lies with games where I can win money.

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