By Flint Wheeler
“They’re mostly betting as expected, on basketball, soccer and tennis,” said Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology and betting insider with Fox Sports West.
This early into the Olympics, the wagering trend can simply be stated as: Bettors really want to bet on games and matches. That’s where most of the action is according to my friends at Pregame.com.
“They’re mostly betting as expected, on basketball, soccer and tennis,” said Pete Fox, host of the local “Fox and Da’ Coach” Radio Show on ESPN which regularly peers into the Las Vegas books at The Cosmopolitan, Venetian, the Palms and more. “They’re betting all the games.”
Not surprisingly, that includes contests involving the U.S. men’s basketball team, including last Monday evening’s tilt against Venezuela. And despite the Americans laying a huge number, most books had public and sharps backing Team USA.
“We need Venezuela,” Director of Gaming at the South Point in Las Vegas said during an interview before the game, in which the U.S. was a 50.5-point favorite.
For the record, the books got what they wanted, as Venezuela kept the margin to 44 in a 113-69 loss.
The Mirage was also seeing primarily basketball and soccer wagers, but has several interesting proposition offerings, as well. One of the more popular options was on Jamaican sprinting sensation Usain Bolt’s performance in the 100-meter dash next weekend. Bolt was a -170 favorite to win gold, 3/2 to take silver, 6/1 for bronze and 12/1 to not medal.
Recent news of Bolt being injured stirred many bettors to jump on the “no medal” choice, and they were aided initially by the prop not having the caveat that Bolt must at least compete.
“We’re stuck big on no medal,” shift manager at the Mirage sportsbook Scott Shelton said during an interview on the daily gambling show ”Sportline” in Las Vegas, noting the book ultimately took the prop down and re-worded it to require that Bolt race for action to be valid. “We got hit pretty good by the ones who got it early. They liked the payback and the fact he was hurt at the time. We’re looking fine now, because it looks like he’s definitely going to run.”
Shelton noted there’s a learning curve with Olympics betting, which just went back on the board for the 2016 Games after not being allowed since the 1990s.
“We’re learning, just like the people who are betting it,” he said. “It’s all new to us.”
Offshore at TheGreek.com, basketball and soccer are taking action, but tennis is the real attraction.
“We probably have more written on tennis than any other event,” said Scott Kaminsky, general manager of The Greek. “We’ve got all the matches up, and we’ve got live betting for probably 75 to 80 percent of the matches.”
Regardless of sport, Kaminsky has picked up on trends among The Greek’s clients.
“The two things I’ve noticed is that they either bet the favorite or a huge longshot,” he said. “Nothing in the middle.”
Still, relatively speaking, some value can be had with favorites. American swimmer Katie Ledecky wiped out the field in world-record fashion to win the gold medal in the women’s 400-meter freestyle Sunday night. Prior to that race, Ledecky was a -1200 favorite to win the 800-meter freestyle later this week – meaning one would have to bet $1,200 to make $100.
“After setting that record, she’s a huge price in the 800,” Kaminsky said, noting the odds moved to -8000. “We had a smart guy lay (-1200).”
Kaminsky’s sportsbook operates out of Jamaica, where Bolt is all the rage, and he’s the 2/5 chalk to win the 100-meter dash, with American Justin Gatlin the +180 second choice. Kaminsky is prepared to comfort his staff in the event Bolt falters.
“If he loses, everybody in here gets ice cream,” he said. “They’ll all be sad. I’ll give them ice cream to help ease the pain.” Wagering on sports as long as I have, I’m not feeling sorry for any of them.