Colorado’s Vast Sports Betting Catalog For Tokyo Olympics Offers Some Unique Wagering Options

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With the completion of the NBA season Tuesday night, sports bettors may have anticipated a dead period for several weeks before the start of the NFL regular season.

But this week Coloradans can whet their betting appetite with the Summer Olympic Games, an event usually held every four years. Last summer, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) delayed the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Olympics began this week under the same moniker, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, despite the year-long delay.

In Colorado, the Division of Gaming’s expansive sports wagering catalog contains more than two dozen events, including niche sports such as handball, rhythmic gymnastics, sports climbing, and surfing. The latter two are making their Olympic debut in Japan. You also have the ability to wager on canoe/kayak flatwater, where Seattle teenager Nevin Harrison can become the first American to win gold in the canoe sprint. Don’t confuse the sport with canoe/kayak slalom, which will take place at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Center, the first man-made whitewater course in Japan.

Data released Tuesday by the American Gaming Association suggested that approximately 20 million Americans plan to place a bet on the Olympics this summer. The AGA’s first-ever survey on Olympic betting expectations indicates that about 25% of U.S. adults who have expressed interest in watching the Olympics plan to wager on an event.

Based on May wagering statistics nationwide, the Colorado monthly handle of $248.9 million represented roughly 6.7% of the total amount bet legally in the U.S. At a similar rate, Coloradans are expected to bet millions on the XXXII Olympiad, scheduled to run from July 23 through August 8.

Value plays abound

Although most sports at the Olympics don’t begin until this weekend, a few already kicked off before Friday’s Opening Ceremony. In women’s soccer, Sweden upset tournament favorite USA 3-0 on Wednesday, ending the U.S. Women’s National Team’s 44-game unbeaten streak. The Swedes had moneyline odds of +700 to win the game straight up. When the U.S. women return to the pitch on Saturday, the Americans are massive -2000 favorites at BetRivers to defeat New Zealand. The match is viewed as a must-win if the U.S. wants to advance to the medal round.

In men’s basketball, Team USA remains an overwhelming favorite despite a rocky start to the team’s exhibition send-off tour. Beset by injury, the U.S. dropped games to Nigeria and Australia, marking the first time the team lost consecutive games in a pre-Olympic tour since the formation of the Dream Team in 1992. Prior to the loss to Nigeria, the U.S. had odds of -335 at DraftKings to win gold in Tokyo. Days before the opening tip, the U.S. remains at -320 at DraftKings, far ahead of Australia (+750), Spain (+900), and Slovenia (+1500), the top choices to upend the Americans.

Team USA has won gold in men’s basketball in six of the last seven Olympics. After losing to Argentina in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, USA Basketball renewed its commitment to recruiting the top players from the NBA. Since then, the U.S. has won three consecutive golds.

DraftKings is offering a promotional special for Team USA’s opener on Sunday against France. For bets of $50 or more on the game, DraftKings’ customers will receive one dollar toward a free bet for every point of Team USA’s winning margin against France. A study of 1,000 fans and viewers conducted by DraftKings ahead of the games found that over 73% of respondents exhibited a definite intent to watch the Olympics this year.

Wagering on a world record

Unlike several states, specifically New York, Colorado is not setting strict limitations on Olympics wagering. In the Empire State, sportsbooks are restricted, for the most part, from offering bets on non-team events. BetRivers offers wagers on a handful of team sports at Rivers Schenectady in Upstate New York — most notably on basketball, baseball, and soccer. BetRivers in Colorado, however, also offers a wide variety of betting options on solo events, including karate, wrestling, and surfing. In women’s surfing, U.S. surfer Carissa Moore, a four-time ASP Tour Champion, is the +200 favorite to win gold.

The Colorado Division of Gaming’s sports wagering catalog also allows wagering on two intriguing props: “Whether an athlete will break a world record?” and “If an athlete will record a perfect 10?” The props appear tailored to two U.S. star athletes — swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles. Ledecky is scheduled to compete in four individual events in Tokyo. The creative bet types could bolster wagering levels across the state.

BetRivers, which is owned by Rush Street Interactive, is offering boosted odds on a litany of wagers from Team USA medal totals to U.S. women’s soccer, men’s basketball, Biles, and Ledecky.

“The enjoyment of sports typically revolves around rooting for your home team, and the Olympics are one of the ultimate unifying experiences in that respect,” Rush Street Interactive COO Mattias Stetz said in a statement. “Our goal is to create fun and entertaining ways for bettors to enhance their Olympic viewing experiences.”

Still, major sportsbooks may run into some roadblocks in producing a robust handle throughout the Olympics. As with other recent Olympics (Pyeonghang 2018 and Sochi 2014) in vastly different time zones, many events will be held after midnight in the U.S., deterring bettors from placing in-game wagers.

“We haven’t seen significant action yet on the Olympics, which is likely due to a combination of timing for early events being hard for U.S. time zones and regulatory restrictions [outside of Colorado], which impact the amount of betting markets we can offer,” BetMGM trader Darren Darby told CoBets. “That said, we expect to see interest from bettors spike now that the NBA Finals are over.”

Matt is a veteran writer with a specific focus on the emerging sports gambling market. During Matt's two decade career in journalism, he has written for the New York Times, Forbes, The Guardian, Reuters and CBSSports.com among others. In his spare time, Matt is an avid reader, a weekend tennis player and a frequent embarrassment to the sport of running.

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