Even though bettors have the opportunity to wager on the Summer Olympics in Las Vegas this year for the first time since 1998, that does not mean they are flocking to the betting window to put money down on their home country and athletes. Instead, the Olympics have just been one more item to add to the wagering menu in Vegas, providing another alternative to simply betting on baseball during the month of August.
The NFL preseason also kicked off last week, marking the return of the biggest sport bettors enjoy wagering on despite the fact that they are only exhibition games right now. Jay Kornegay, the Vice President of Race & Sports at the Sportsbook Las Vegas SuperBook, noted that the Olympics just cannot compete with baseball and the NFL.
“That’s like comparing a medicine ball to a marble,” Kornegay said when asked to compare the amount bet on the different sporting events. “As expected, (action) has been very minimal, including the basketball. It’s been grocery dollars on most events. The most interest is on events Americans are familiar with, basketball, soccer and golf.”
Men’s basketball begins quarterfinal play on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, with Team USA listed as a massive 23-point favorite against Argentina at the SuperBook. The Americans have struggled to cover so far though, going 1-4 against the spread despite being the only squad to finish the group stage at 5-0 straight-up.
Women’s basketball will enter the semifinal round on Thursday, and like the men, Team USA is an enormous favorite to win the gold medal. In fact, the American women have been more dominant than their male counterparts, as they are going for their sixth consecutive Olympic title compared to three straight golds for the men.
The main issue with this year’s Team USA men’s basketball team is that it lacks the star power of previous teams. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are the only returnees from past squads, and the Americans have struggled in their last three games, defeating Serbia and France by just three points apiece in Group A play. While those results could hurt the betting handle Vegas sportsbooks get the rest of the way, there may end up being some value on the United States after underachieving so far.
“(Betting) might pick up for the semifinals and final in hoops,” said Kornegay.