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Winter Olympics: Betting primer

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

February 2, 2022 08:51 PM
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The 2022 Winter Olympics begin Feb. 4 in Beijing. The international competition will be the first Winter Games with widespread legalization of sports betting, so it will be interesting to see how all of the different sportsbooks handle these events. Sportsbooks outside of the United States have always offered betting odds on Olympic competitions, so the template is there.

Here’s a look at what options will be offered, how to bet on the Olympics and some tips for those betting on the Games for the first time.

What can I bet?

Governing bodies in each state will decide which events sportsbooks can open for betting. For example, Indiana announced on Jan. 23 that seven events would be open: alpine skiing, bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, ice hockey, short-track speed skating and speed skating.

While that list may appear random, there is a clear method to the madness. Those events are not decided by judges but by a clock or a scoreboard, so there are fewer concerns around corruption. Most states and sportsbooks will offer those sports, along with others that can be graded without the influence of judges.

Sportsbooks will also offer props or futures bets on medal counts, gold-medal counts, team competitions and individual winners of timed events, to name a few. 

If the winners of an event appear to be black and white, expect to be able to wager on it. For events in which judges make the final decisions, betting opportunities might be hard to find in the U.S.

How to bet on the Olympics

Like anything else, these sports will take a fair amount of research. There are championship events between Olympic years, but most of those don’t feature betting odds. Bettors who do their homework and dig into the analysis certainly have a chance at making money.

The easiest starting point is taking a look at medal props and futures. Norway won 39 medals at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Germany was second (31), followed by Canada (29), the United States (23) and the Netherlands (20). In 2014 in Sochi, Russia, the home country won 30, followed by the United States (28), Norway (26), Canada (25) and the Netherlands (24). 

You’ll be able to bet Over/Unders on medals won for certain countries, such as the U.S. and Canada. 

You’ll be able to bet which country will win the most gold medals (Norway and Germany each had 14 in 2018; Russia and Norway each had 11 in 2014). 

As of Monday, the O/U on gold medals won for Germany was 10.5, the U.S. was 9.5 and Canada was 7.5. 

More and more odds will pop up as the Games get closer.

It’s worth noting that because U.S. sportsbooks aren’t that well-versed in these events, betting limits will likely be lower and lines will move very quickly with bets that are flagged as sharp.

Tips for betting on the Olympics

As always, shop around for the best lines. Don’t take Canada to win gold in hockey at 200 if you can find 250 somewhere else. Don’t take the favorite in a skiing event at 150 if 200 is offered somewhere else. This is true of any sport but especially in these Olympics.

Some sportsbooks, specifically those backed by European companies, will be willing to take on more risk because they have a global presence in the Olympics betting market. They’ll have more action with which to gather information and a better idea of where a line should be. Sportsbooks based in the U.S. will be less likely to have the same level of risk tolerance.

As a result, there will be price differences in the market that you’ll want to use to your advantage. Line shopping always matters, but this will be a less efficient market and the odds may vary greatly.

When you can, watch the qualifying events and the action prior to the medal round. Research helps, but information may be very hard to find. There may be nothing like getting a pair of eyes on past and present performances to predict future results.

The NHL is not allowing players to participate in the Olympics, instead playing some of the games that were postponed by COVID-19 pauses earlier in the season. However, there are a lot of notable ex-NHL players that are either recently retired or playing in pro leagues overseas. So a sport with some familiar names such as hockey may be a safer bet than speed skating or skiing. 

Stick with what you know or what you think you can have success betting. If you want, you can certainly make a wager while you watch, but be responsible with the bet amount, especially if you are only betting for some rooting interest rather than with an edge in mind.

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