Not everyone is a Summer Olympics viewer or bettor, but the Tokyo Games come along at a very good time for the Pennsylvania sportsbooks.
The NBA and NHL seasons are over and NFL games are weeks away. Golf’s majors have wrapped up. MLB is in its mid-season grind. There’s not a lot on the customary sports calendar offering viewing excitement.
So thanks to a year’s delay as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympics officially started Friday and run through Aug. 8 with a myriad of events — some well-known but many not, just like the participants in them.
The 13 Pennsylvania online sportsbooks are offering odds on aspects ranging from gold medal chances for a shaky U.S. men’s basketball team offering some of the NBA’s top names to the likelihood that the winner of women’s kayaking will be odds-on favorite Jessica Fox of Australia.
A check of the different sportsbooks each day over two weeks will find different daily odds for different daily events, as well as futures bets and some promotions. Some sportsbooks’ menus are far more extensive than others, although they all seem to offer wagering on events most familiar to Americans: men’s basketball, women’s soccer, top swimmers and track stars, etc.
According to Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, “The PGCB approved wagering on all Olympic events. At the same time, each operator has discretion on which events they ultimately offer to the public.”
The American Gaming Association recently released a survey estimating 8% of adults, or about 20 million Americans, would wager on the Olympics in some format — whether with a legal sportsbook, among friends, or with a bookie.
Among those, 45% planned to bet on basketball, 34% on soccer, 28% on gymnastics, and 27% each on track/field and swimming, according to the survey.
Hoops team not so dreamy as anticipated
The betting public’s interest in basketball is understandable, given the sport’s general popularity, the carry-over from the just-completed NBA season, and the USA’s dominance of the Olympic sport.
But no one could have imagined the team’s three losses thus far when heavily favored, even if two were in exhibitions vs. Nigeria and Australia. Sunday’s 83-76 loss to France, a 12-point underdog, actually meant something.
The USA remains the favorite to overcome the loss that ended a 25-game Olympics winning streak and take the gold medal, but BetRivers has dropped those odds from -315 to -195. And the Americans are no longer favored to come out leading Group A, now +400 at FanDuel and FOX Bet, while France is at -520 and -550, respectively, from the two of them.
Fortunately for the U.S. team of NBA players, led by Kevin Durant, they next play Iran Wednesday and are favored by as many as 42 points. That number comes from DraftKings, with FanDuel giving the Iranians more respect as a mere 39.5-point underdog.
Women’s soccer team also causing concern
Soccer showed up as the next most popular sport among prospective Olympic bettors, and with the U.S. men’s team failing to even qualify for the competition, the assumption is the favored U.S. women’s team is drawing most of that action.
Like the men’s basketball team, however, that soccer team has not lived up to expectations. It lost to Sweden 3-0 in an opener before defeating New Zealand, 6-1.
While the U.S. women remain favored to win gold, the price has dropped to as much as +130 at FanDuel, with Great Britain closest behind at +440. Most sites have even odds or a small plus price to take the U.S., but BetMGM still favors the team strongest at -110.
The next match is Tuesday against Australia, with the U.S. favored by anywhere from -335 at Barstool Sportsbook to -400 at FOX Bet.
Familiar golfers atop odds board
The most familiar names in the Olympics to U.S. sports fans may be the golfers representing their respective nations, even though two of the top ones — Jon Rahm of Spain and American Bryson DeChambeau — had to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19 before even arriving in Japan.
The favorite in the 72-hole event that ends over the weekend (the women’s golfers compete the following week) is now recent British Open winner Collin Morikawa, who is listed at +700 at most sites. Behind him are fellow Americans Xander Schauffele (as high as +900 at FanDuel and FOX Bet) and Justin Thomas (+1100 at DraftKings). Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, and Viktor Hovland are the highest-listed non-Americans, generally +1100 or +1200.
Don’t bet against Russian artistic swimmers
There are no shortage of other individuals and team sports to bet on, with the USA expected to be dominant in competition such as women’s gymnastics (-500 to win gold at FOX Bet) and men’s sprinting (Trayvon Bromell +100 at DraftKings to take gold in 100 meters).
But there are bound to be surprises, just as already has been seen involving men’s basketball, women’s soccer, and more.
As for artistic swimming, that could be another matter. The Russian squad is -1667 at Barstool to win that. You might stand to make more money looking elsewhere to medalists in surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, and a whole wide array of sporting events.
Or you could always just watch, like many among the 80% whom that survey said won’t be betting. That’s also fine.
Photo: Kyle Terada/USA Today