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2008 Summer Olympics Betting Really Explodes

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Aug/12/2008
2008 Summer Olympics

Throughout the world, people are betting on the 2008 Olympics, which has also proven a ratings juggernaut for NBC.

With Michael Phelps spending a great deal of time in front of the cameras between 8:00PM and midnight ET each night, it's hardly a shock to hear that USers are tuning into the Olympics like its 1976, writes Darren Murph of Engadget.com.

According to preliminary numbers, NBC Universal is reporting that an average of 29.1 million viewers are flipping on the Olympics, which is the "most highly rated broadcast of the Summer Games held outside the United States since 1976". Ad revenue is over $30 million.

Combine that with the idea that this is a sporting event and the ingredients are in place for one of the biggest betting extravaganzas of 2008.

"The great thing about the Olympics is you don't need to understand the sports," explains Payton O'Brien, Gambling911.com Senior Editor. "Most people bet on the country - usually their own."

There are of course odds on which country will win the most medals, golds, silvers, bronzes.

Thus far, the odds makers have been relatively accurate in selecting China as the favorite to take home the most gold medals and the USA taking home the second largest number. South Korea continues to surprise as the third placement up to this point.

And it also should not surprise anybody that the Chinese are now betting the 2008 Summer Olympics en masse.

Olympics fever has spread to China's interbank money market, where traders are betting on the host country to take between 40 and 42 gold medals in this year's games -- a jump from 32 golds in the 2004 games.

Traders who make their living pricing interest rate swaps and arbitraging in the bill and bond markets have organized an informal "swap" market to bet on China's Olympics medal tally.

Those betting on China to win more than a certain number of golds "buy" contracts at that level; traders betting on a ceiling for China's haul "sell" just below that maximum. Contract prices move in increments of a quarter of a gold medal.

Betting is expected to pick up at a frenetic pace worldwide but the US in particular will be drawing upon local markets for wagering excitement.

Case in point: Central Texas. The Rutland Heraldreports that Central Texas could produce an extra large audience thanks to excitement over 18 former or current Longhorns who are representing the United States.

Cheering for our hometowners - medal seekers such as runners Sanya Richards and Leo Manzano, diver Laura Wilkinson and swimmer Ian Crocker - is likely to be loud and long.

"We're estimating our prime-time ratings could be 10 percent higher than the Athens Games in '04," said Eric Lassberg, general manager of KXAN, Austin's NBC affiliate. "We have so many athletes from Central Texas and the uniqueness of having the Games in a high-profile country like China play a part. And the long, hot days of summer here are a factor."

The Herald provided yet another interesting observation that could apply to the world as a whole at this point.

With the economy in a slump and gas prices high, many people are sticking close to home, perhaps giving the Olympics extra appeal.

"Watching the Olympics is one of those highly desirable shared experiences at a time when the audience is getting more and more fragmented," said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. "The biggest enemy of past Summer Olympics has been people going on vacation, but with gas prices the way they are, fewer people are traveling."

Thus far, swimming has provided the most bang for the bookmaker's buck though gamblers themselves would not have gotten much value in betting Michael Phelps whose odds to win have been up to -5000. One can translate that into a $5000 risk just to win $100. Men's gymnastics was a hit and women's gymnastics should take in even more money.

Men's basketball, diving, boxing and the track and field events should also draw ample attention.

You can check out all the online sportsbooks offering 2008 Summer Olympics betting here

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