Outside of judged sports like Gymnastics and Diving, betting on the Olympics is on the table for many US states that have launched legal sports betting.
While the Summer Olympics has many of the marquee events, Olympics betting will continue to grow through the 2022 Winter Olympics and beyond. This country’s patriotic support for the US Olympic team and its athletes is turning into major dollars at virtual betting windows.
In most states you’ll be able to bet on the US Olympic team’s medal totals, team sports, and even prop markets involving the performance of individual athletes. To help you navigate your way through it all, here’s our roadmap to navigating Summer and Winter Olympics betting at legal US sportsbooks.
Best Online Sportsbooks for Olympic Betting
Can you bet on the Olympics in the US?
The Summer and Winter Olympics are considered amateur sporting events, even if professional athletes have been allowed to compete in most Olympic sports for decades now. That means betting on the Olympics is perfectly legal in states with no restrictions when it comes to betting on amateur sports.
US states that have placed restrictions on amateur sports betting have primarily stuck to restricting betting on in-state college teams or on amateur sporting events that take place inside state lines. That means betting on the Olympics is legal in those states where sports betting is legal unless any state decides to expressly prohibit it ahead of the games.
The states where you can bet on the Olympics online are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
- Washington (Tribal land only)
- West Virginia
In-person retail sports betting on the Olympics is also legal in:
- New Mexico
- New York
Plus, a number of states have passed legislation making sports betting legal, but retail and online sportsbooks have yet to launch. These states include:
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
Which Olympic sports can you bet on?
The official list of Olympic sports and events at the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo includes:
- 3×3 Basketball
- Artistic Gymnastics
- Artistic Swimming
- Beach Volleyball
- Canoe Slalom
- Canoe Sprint
- Cycling BMX Freestyle
- Cycling BMX Racing
- Cycling Mountain Bike
- Cycling Road
- Cycling Track
- Football (Soccer)
- Marathon Swimming
- Modern Pentathlon
- Rhythmic Gymnastics
- Sport Climbing
- Table Tennis
- Trampoline Gymnastics
- Water Polo
Remove all judged sports like the various Gymnastics and Diving events, for starters, as you won’t be able to bet on those anywhere. After that, you’ll find a reduced list of eligible sports at legal and licensed US sportsbooks in your state—generally all of the team sports (basketball, soccer, etc) with a mixed list of individual sports that have been approved by state regulators.
Among the Olympics odds markets you’ll already find listed at DraftKings Sportsbook, for example, include:
- Sport climbing
You will be able to place standard moneyline bets, spreads, and totals on team sports like Basketball and Soccer, as well as other sports where this type of betting is applicable.
The official list of Olympic sports and events at the next Winter Olympic Games includes:
- Alpine Skiing
- Figure Skating
- Freestyle Skiing
- Ice Hockey
- Nordic Combined
- Short Track Speed Skating
- Ski Jumping
- Speed Skating
Similarly, if you remove the judged sports like Figure Skating, you should be able to bet on many of these sports at legal and licensed US sportsbooks. You can make standard moneyline, spread, and totals bets on team sports like Ice Hockey, as well as other sports where this type of betting is applicable.
How do I bet on Olympic teams?
Outside of betting on individual sports, you can possibly bet on Olympic futures, which allow you to bet on things like team medal counts. Here’s an example of what you can bet on through the Olympic futures betting markets:
- Which country will win the most gold medals?
- Which country will win the most total medals?
- O/U on how many gold medals the USA will win
- O/U on how many total medals the USA will win
- O/U on how many gold medals the USA will win in Track and Field events
How do I bet on individual Olympic athletes?
Betting on individual athletes usually involves a bet on an athlete to win a gold medal or any medal in an individual event in which that athlete is competing. These bets are typically placed at currently posted moneyline odds locked in at the time you place the bet.
Of course, you should also be able to bet on individual athletes in individual and team sports through Olympic props markets, where they are available. These markets are generally based on athletic performance. Here’s an example of what you can bet on through the Olympic props betting markets:
- O/U on times or statistical achievements for athletes in Track, Swimming, Cycling, or other events
- O/U on statistical achievements for individual athletes in certain Team Sports
Olympic prop bets for gold medals, silver medals or bronze medals
Outside of betting on Olympic futures, which allow you to bet on team medal counts, or standard individual athlete or team single-event or single-game betting, you should be able to bet on athletes or teams to medal in an Olympic event.
That means betting on an athlete or team to win gold, silver, bronze, or any medal in just about every Olympic sport. This will more than likely involve betting at odds on a sliding scale, with reduced payouts for silver and bronze medals and even further reduced payouts when you are less specific with your bet. In other words, betting on an athlete or team to win gold, silver, or bronze.
Most popular Olympics bets
The most popular way to bet on the Olympics is to bet on medal counts. Because the US has won more medals at the Summer Olympics than any other country in history, they are the perennial favorites in medal count betting.
The odds on the US winning the medal count in Tokyo this summer stand at around -900 at most legal US sportsbooks. You can bet on the rest of the field at +500, or specific other countries at even bigger odds. Despite the size of the reward not being worth the risk here, the US winning the medal count this summer should be one of the most popular bets at legal US sportsbooks.
The US to win in most team sports events will be almost as popular. US women dominate in popular sports like Basketball and Soccer and even though they will be huge favorites in the betting markets, bettors will see a US win as a sure thing and ignore the lofty price.
The US men’s Basketball team has been less dominant in recent international competitions than they once were. However, they’ll still be somewhere around -360 favorites to win gold in Tokyo and even at that price, the popularity of the NBA in the US should drive betting on the US in this market, making it among the most popular Olympic bets in 2021 as well.
Betting on US Men’s Basketball at Olympics
Like we just mentioned, the US men’s team will be somewhere around -360 favorites to win gold in Basketball in Tokyo this summer. That’s a bit of a risk for a small reward, but the popularity of the NBA in the US should make this one of the most popular events and bets at the Olympics this summer.
Internationally, only soccer is a more popular sport, but Basketball may be even more popular at the Olympics because its popularity is driven by the NBA, the US team is made up of a bunch of NBA All-Stars, and the best NBA players from the rest of the world turn up to represent their countries.
The US dominates on the women’s side too, making Basketball the biggest of the Olympic team sports, certainly on this side of the world.
Of course, you can do more than just bet on the US to win gold. You can bet moneylines, spreads, and totals for each game in the men’s and women’s Olympic Basketball tournaments. Plus, you can bet on props based on the statistical performance of your favorite players.
Bet on the 100m Olympic Final and other track events
The “100 metres” at the Summer Olympics is a signature event where the fastest runner wins. It’s as simple as that, and so is the betting. This classic sprint is among the most popular moments in the entire Summer Games.
If the 100m is offered in your state, you can bet your favorites to medal at moneyline odds that you lock in at the time you place your bet. You can also maybe bet props on times for certain runners or even bet on the chances anyone in the field will break a World Record.
The same holds true for other Olympic Track events at different distances and different disciplines, like the 200 meter or hurdles.
Olympic sports vs Pro sports betting
Here’s a look at the big differences between certain sports at the Olympics and professional and other International competitions when it comes to format and betting:
The NBA Playoffs is a single-elimination tournament featuring the top 16 teams in the NBA’s regular season playing seven-game series through four rounds of a two-conference bracket that is seeded based on regular-season record. The WNBA Playoffs is an eight-team tournament where the lower-seeded teams (based on regular-season records) face off in single-elimination first and second-round games. The winners advance to the best-of-five game semifinals against the top two seeds and the semifinal winners face off in a best-of-five WNBA Finals.
Both the men’s and women’s Olympic Basketball events are 12-team tournaments where teams that qualify from tournaments held across the globe are split into three groups of four. Each team plays the others in its group with the top two teams from each and the two best third-place teams moving on to a knockout stage. The knockout stage includes a single-elimination quarterfinals and semifinals, leading to gold medal and bronze medal games. The big difference when it comes to betting is the sudden-death nature of the knockout stage in the Olympics versus the seven-game series in the NBA Playoffs and best-of five format in the WNBA playoffs.
World Cup Soccer is a 32-team tournament where teams that qualify from tournaments held across the globe are split into eight groups of four. Each team plays the others in its group with the top two teams from each moving on to a knockout stage. The knockout stage includes a single-elimination round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals, leading to a Finals and Third-Place Playoff games.
Olympic soccer is a 16-team tournament where teams that qualify from tournaments held across the globe are split into four groups of four. Each team plays the others in its group with the top two teams from each moving on to a knockout stage. The knockout stage includes a single-elimination quarterfinals and semifinals, leading to old medal and bronze medal games.
The big difference is the size of the tournament, number of teams advancing to the knockout stage, and the addition of a round of 16 in the World Cup. You should find it much easier to bet on the Olympics versus betting on the World Cup as the favorites become much more defined in the smaller-sized tournament.
The biggest team sport in the Winter Olympics, hockey is played as a 12-team tournament where teams that qualify from competitions held across the globe are split into three groups of four. Each team plays every other team in their group to determine seeding, followed by four rounds of elimination games.
Group winners get bye into the second round, as does the highest-ranking second-place team. The other eight teams play a qualification game with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. Quarterfinals winners go on to the semifinals. The semifinal winners face off in the gold medal game and the losers play for the bronze.
Much like the NBA Playoffs, a traditional NHL Playoffs is a single-elimination tournament featuring the top 16 teams in the NHL’s regular season playing seven-game series through four rounds of a two-conference bracket that is seeded based on regular-season record. Once again, the big difference when it comes to betting is the number of teams and sudden-death nature of the elimination games, quarterfinals, semifinals and gold medal game in the Olympics versus the seven-game series in the NHL Playoffs.
Golf and tennis
When it comes to betting on the Olympics versus major professional tournaments, the big difference between individual sports like golf and tennis is the sheer size of the tournaments. Grand Slam tennis events like Wimbledon start with a first round including 128 players whereas the Olympics includes just 64. With the field cut in half, it should be easier to pick winners.
Golf Majors like the US Open start with 156 players and the field is cut down to around half that after two rounds. Olympic Golf features a similar four-round tournament format, but the event starts with just 60 players. Once again, it should be easier to pick winners with a smaller field to choose from.
How to read Olympics odds & lines
Basic game lines will look different for different Olympic sports based on things like the number of possible outcomes of the game and bet types available. Here’s an example of what a group stage Olympic Soccer game line might look like, where three-way moneyline betting is available:
|Home Win||Tie||Away Win|
|Brazil (Home) vs. Germany||-120||+125||+115|
As you can see, three-way moneyline betting allows for betting on one of three possible game outcomes. You have to bet $120 to win $100, plus your bet back, on the favorite, Brazil. However, you’ll win $125 for every $100 bet on the tie and $115 for every $100 bet on underdog Germany.
Below is an example of what an Olympic Basketball game line might look like. The Olympics betting odds may be bloated based on the level of competition, but the format is the same as an NBA betting line.
|USA vs. Iran||Spread||Moneyline||Total|
|USA||-16.5 (-110)||-400||180.5 (-110)|
|Iran||+16.5 (-110)||+800||180.5 (-110)|
As you can see, the US are 16.5-point favorites over Iran. That means the US must win by 17 or more for spread bets on the US to win. Iran just has to win, or lose by 16 or less, for spread bets on Iran to win. Either way, bet the spread correctly and you’ll win $100, plus your bet back, for every $110 you bet. The moneyline odds show the USA as -400 outright favorites.
That means you have to bet $400 to win $100, plus your bet back, on the US moneyline. Otherwise you can bet Iran at +800 and get paid $800, plus your bet back, for every $100 you bet, if Iran wins outright.
Finally, there’s the totals line. Here, you can bet on the teams combining to score more or less than a line of 180.5 points. Either way, the odds dictate that if you bet correctly, you’ll win $100, plus your bet back, for every $110 you bet.
Vegas betting lines for Olympics
From the swanky new sportsbook lounge in your favorite Las Vegas casino to the online sportsbook you use regularly in West Virginia, legal US sportsbooks are going to open up with the exact same Olympic betting lines. However, these lines can change ahead of the events and they could end up very different in different parts of the country by the time the event begins.
Like any game lines, Olympic lines can move based on betting. When they do, they move independently. That means a Las Vegas sportsbook might move its line on a USA Basketball game because a whale just bet $250,000 on Team USA, but the New Jersey online sportsbook you bet with won’t move the line, unless they also get a big bet on the game.
Of course, local interest can lead to increased local betting, making the Olympic lines where there’s a local athlete involved more likely to change. You simply never know until all the bets are in, which is why you should pay attention to movement in the lines at several different sportsbooks, even in the same state. If you’re lucky, and your timing is right, you may even be able to take advantage of it.
Why can’t I bet on gymnastics or figure skating at the Olympics?
The reason you can’t bet on judged sports at the Olympics is to avoid corruption, the perception of any impropriety, or even the possibility that corruption could occur. If gamblers could bet on judged sports, the possibility that they could buy judges would suddenly exist.
While this kind of corruption would probably be easy enough to spot, based on betting and the behavior of the judges, prohibiting betting on judged events avoids the possibility of it happening entirely.
Sportsbook rules for Olympic betting
Legal US sportsbooks will post standard rules for Olympic betting meant to govern betting for all events. For example, DraftKings Sportsbook has a rules page for betting on “Olympic and Championship Events” that reads:
“All conditions stated in this section have priority to any other rule or condition.
All bets are valid provided that the event is held and decided during the championship and the year it refers to, regardless of any venue changes.
This clause is applicable to offers that reasonably fulfill any of the following criteria:
- The bet refers to events scheduled for the final phase of events forming part of Olympic, World and Continental competitions;
- The final phase of the event is time restricted.
Markets for this sport may not currently be offered in all jurisdictions.”
It’s a good idea to read these betting rules at the sportsbook where your placing bets on the Olympics. Plus, take a look at the rules governing betting on the specific sport you’re betting on, and any terms and/or conditions of betting provided by the sportsbook you’re betting with. These will give you a good idea of how sportsbooks handle certain situations that may arise with your Olympic bets.
These rules may vary from sportsbook to sportsbook and state to state. Make sure you’re reading them at the sportsbook where you are placing bets, inside the state where you are currently located.