Betting on the Olympics is returning to Nevada sportsbooks.
Nevada Gaming Control approved an amendment to state gaming regulations Thursday, allowing sportsbooks to offer wagering on sporting or athletic events sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee. The proposal passed unanimously and was quickly followed by the William Hill sportsbook posting odds on the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
The United States men's basketball team is a minus-320 favorite to win the gold medal in 2016. The U.S. is favored to win 6.5 more gold medals than China, and Brazil is plus-250 to win the gold medal in men's soccer.
"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," William Hill CEO Joe Asher said in a statement. "We look forward to continually expanding our Olympic menu in the next 18 months leading up to the games."
Betting on the Olympics in Nevada was outlawed in 2001, when Sen. John McCain was pushing for a ban on betting on all amateur sports. At the time, Nevada books were not taking wagers on state schools like UNLV. The state removed that restriction, but prohibited betting on other amateur events, like the Olympics. This put Nevada at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to other gambling markets where Olympic betting was allowed.
"You'd have people coming over from the U.K., where it was legal to bet on the Olympics, and wondering why they couldn't place a bet here," Quinton Singleton, vice president and deputy general counsel for sportsbook operator CG Technology, told ESPN.com. "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."
There was consideration about limiting which events would be available for wagering, especially events like ice skating and gymnastics, which are decided by judges. But Gaming Control opted to allow betting on any sanctioned event, subject to limitation by the chairman of the board.
Jay Kornegay, vice president of the Westgate SuperBook, said that while some Olympic events won't "move the needle much," other events, especially those featuring prominent Americans in contention, will be very popular.
"I would think there might be some interest in events like, for example, women's downhill skiing with Lindsey Vonn," Kornegay said. "Overall, this just allows us to be a little more competitive with the rest of the world."
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