Las Vegas Sun

April 14, 2024

Bettors not flocking to sports books over Olympics

The Olympics are not bigger than the Super Bowl. They can't beat the Final Four. In fact, they're less important than regular-season baseball.

At least when it comes to wagering.

Sports book directors throughout Southern Nevada are not gearing up for an influx of bettors in the next few weeks because of the Summer Games in Atlanta.

Mirage sports book boss Jimmy Vaccaro has posted numbers for every Olympics since 1976. While he handles more and more action each time, he still claims the Games have a long way to go before they become a moneymaker at the window.

"It's an add-on. There's nothing there," Vaccaro said. "It's grown in popularity in the last decade, and when the Olympics are on our own soil like this year, it helps a little bit. But it doesn't generate much action."

Numbers for this year are just starting to be offered around the city, but only in the major team events.

Men's basketball has seen the most action. The Mirage opened odds for the Dream Team at 1-30 this weekend, but quickly increased it to 1-75. Leroy's Race and Sports, which services dozens of hotels and casinos throughout the state, started at 1-25, but currently offers 1-50.

By comparison, the Las Vegas Hilton is still a bargain at 1-30.

Also available are women's basketball (the U.S. is a 1-5 favorite at the Hilton, 2-5 at The Mirage), men's and women's soccer, men's and women's volleyball and baseball.

Individual games will be offered as they approach. Most of the action, however, will come at the track ... but not on horses.

"The stuff we'll probably book the most will come in the second week of the Games when most of the track and field events take place," Vaccaro said. "Track and field overall seems to draw the most attention and people ask more about that than anything else.

"It would always seem to be that basketball draws the most attention, but the point spreads are so high. The U.S. might be a 40-point favorite in some games."

As qualifying takes place, The Mirage will post certain props, such as whether or not 200-meter sprinter Michael Johnson will break a world or Olympic record in the medal heat.

Despite all the fanfare, however, it takes a special kind of bettor to put money down on the Olympics.

"World Cup soccer did entice some South American and European high-limit customers, but we won't get some guy from Kenya coming all the way over here to bet on their guy in the 800-meters," Vaccaro said.

Odds and ends

* LIGHT 'EM UP: With all the attention surrounding Cigar in the Arlington Citation Challenge Saturday, all place and show wagering was prohibited. "This is the first time I can remember in a long while that a major race took out place or show wagering," Vaccaro said. As Cigar prepared to tie Citation's 46-year-old record of 16 straight victories, nearly all money was sure to come in on him, even though he drew the outside post and was running against this year's Kentucky Derby favorite Unbridled's Song. Stopping the second- and third-place betting still was necessary to protect the track. "It takes care of a lot of people who wanted to make large bets," Vaccaro said. "There were a few people sniffing around here and I heard some at other places around town as well, who were looking to put big money on Cigar to show. It did turn off a few people who come to town to bet 100 or 200 thousand (dollars). They were madder than I was, believe me."

* CHIPS ARE OUT: The Las Vegas Club is getting into the Olympic spirit by issuing commemorative Jesse Owens $10 gaming chips. Only 1,500 of the chips were produced and became available Friday.