Mon, November 18, 2013

Bookies looking to cash in on Games

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency




Bookies looking to cash in on Games
 

LONDON - Is the action on the fields and tracks and rivers and pools not enough to satisfy your Olympic excitement?

You’ve come to the right place.

For the first time in modern Olympic history, fans have easy access to claiming their own legal stake in the action thanks to the hundreds of regulated bookmaking shops that dot the city and country.

While Internet wagering has been around for a while, betting shops make it easier for the average bloke to put down a bob or three (if you’ll pardon the British vernacular) and the bookies are ready to accept your pounds.

“We’ll take any bet you want, mate,” Matt Matheao, shop manager at a William Hill outlet, says one noon-hour as a handful of patrons eye the betting sheets and horse racing forms. “If it’s not listed on our forms, we’ll offer you a price. Name the event and the athlete and we’ll take (the action.)”

Most bookies aren’t expecting a heavy flood of wagering on the Games as they find themselves in the dog days of summer, wagering-wise with no Premier League soccer to carry the action. That said, the country’s legal bookmakers are offering a wide menu as they hope to drive traffic into their shops.

With that in mind, industry insiders are predicting $80 million to be wagered throughout the Games, which would be 10 times the total of Beijing four years ago.

The biggest money and most tickets will be written on Great Britain’s athletes, of course, with big interest in Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and his bid to repeat gold in both the 100 and 200 metres. Props on Bolt winning both or setting a world record are offered and you can bet against the prospect of him winning anything, as well.

“The Olympics have never been popular in the betting shops and we have had loads of Olympic Games since the 1960s (when wagering on sports) was first legalized,” Matheao said. “We’ll get some big betting on Mr. Bolt’s big races and on men’s and women’s (soccer), but otherwise we don’t know what to expect.

“If people get interested in what is going on through the TV and newspapers, they might wander in a little bit more. And we’ll have plenty to offer them.”

The prospect of such easily accessible legalized wagering has the IOC on alert more so than in past Games, although there seems to be no fear of a match-fixing crisis that has hit other international sports in the past. IOC president Jacques Rogge has said that monitoring gambling activity is a top priority and the U.K. Gambling Commission will be monitoring betting action for any unusual activity or trends.

“Our view is that the threat of something happening is very low,” Nick Tofiluk, the head of regulation for the commission, told the Daily Telegraph. “There is no specific intelligence that anything is going to happen.”

Of greater concern to the IOC are illegal bookies in Asia who have been implicated in betting scandals in the past. Legal and regulatory bodies will keep watch on what happens to protect the integrity of the Games.

Meanwhile, the action won’t be limited to Britain’s legal bookshops as the booming industry of off-shore has plenty of straight and prop wagers.

One of our favourite props pits superstar American swimmer Michael Phelps against Spain’s entire Olympic team, asking bettors to choose who will win more medals -- the one-man gold machine or an entire nation?

If you want to be brave and bet that Phelps won’t win one gold in the seven events he has entered, you can get nice odds of 50-1.

In the overall medal race, the Americans are favoured to win the most gold at odds of 4-7 followed by China at 5-4. The host Brits -- who have no shot of winning that race -- are at 40-1.

CANADIAN ODDS TO WIN GOLD

Adam van Koeverden 5-2

Three-time Olympic kayak medallist is 5-2 co-favourite with German Max Hoff.

Clara Hughes 14-1

Decorated Canadian Olympian an outsider in cycling time trial.

Simon Whitfield 100-1

Swan song for triathlon great and Canada's flag-bearer.

Men's Eight rowing 8-1

Canada is defending champ, but Germany is huge fave at 1-5.

Dylan Armstrong 7-1

Shot putter is one of the top-ranked in the world.

Ryan Cochrane 33-1

Bronze medallist from Beijing four years ago has a shot in the pool.

Milos Raonic 33-1

Canadian star has a tough draw.