Betting The Olympics In Iowa: Some Are Gold Medal Wagers, Other Don’t Reach Legal Finish Line

Posted By Russ Mitchell on July 21, 2021

Don’t look now, but the Tokyo Olympics are already underway. But, no worries: The schedule is still sparse ahead of Friday morning’s Opening Ceremony. And, athletes won’t earn medals in any sport until Saturday.

If you’re wondering what time it is in Tokyo, Japan Standard Time is 22 hours ahead of us. The time zone will present a challenge for NBCUniversal, the viewers and Iowa sports betting customers.

This is the network’s ninth consecutive Summer Games and 11th consecutive Olympics overall. You can watch the Olympics on NBC, its six cable networks, plus streaming platforms; NBC will carry 7,000 hours of programming over the 17-day event. Mike Tirico is the prime-time host.

Here is the Summer Olympics schedule.

Team USA is favored to win the most gold medals once the Games draw to a close on Aug. 8. Sports wagering operators think the US will win the most total medals as well. NBC Digital will carry all 339 medal events.

Olympics odds: Most gold medals

Country with the most gold medalsWilliam Hill SportsbookBetMGM SportsbookBetRivers SportsbookPointsBet Sportsbook
USA-800-1000-1000-1429
China+500+550+600+600
Japan+2500+2200+3300+2200
Great Britain+4000+3300+3300+5000
Russian Olympic Committee+5000+3300+3300+3000
Germany+20000+25000+25000+30000
Australia+30000+15000+15000+20000
The Netherlands+30000+20000+15000+30000
France+30000+25000+20000+30000

The pandemic delayed the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games for a year, and COVID-19 worries still loom over the venues.

Competitions will unfold without fans in attendance. Some major sponsors have also distanced themselves from the Summer Games for the sake of health awareness. As late as Wednesday morning, the head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee couldn’t rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Games.

Iowa residents and guests couldn’t legally bet on sporting events until August 2019. That makes the current Olympiad a first-time experience for bettors and regulators alike. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) keeps a list of approved wagers for all sports.

IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko said that some Olympics events won’t be a betting option in Iowa:

“The Olympics has been kind of a challenge — just understanding the various events and trying to educate a number of the operators. Iowa law currently prohibits wagering on any individual event where there are individuals under the age of 18 participating. And so there’s been another level of due diligence when we received the Olympic wagering requests.”

No Olympics betting on athletes age 16 or 17 in Iowa

We’ll use Simone Biles in gymnastics as an example.

She’s 24, but Iowans can’t bet on her for a floor exercise gold or the individual all-around. Why? Because Biles will be competing against some 16-year-old and 17-year-old athletes.

Ohorilko said:

“When it comes to individual events — that may be many of the track-and-field events, many of the swimming events and gymnastics events — if there is any participant in that event that’s under the age of 18, Iowa law prohibits taking wagers on that event.”

Ohorilko keeps online sportsbooks in Iowa up to date about the state’s approved wagers. In turn, the sportsbooks make sure customers only see eligible bets as options on their sites.

For example, William Hill Iowa, will display different betting options than William Hill in New Jersey because the laws differ in the two states.

Ohorilko said:

“If we have a way to verify the ages of participants in the event, we will authorize it. It’s not a situation where we’re applying a one-size-fits-all code to just deny all individual events.”

The IRGC partners with integrity monitoring companies. Together, they make sure the state’s sportsbooks are in compliance with the age limits.

You can bet on team events, regardless of age

As we said, you can’t bet on Biles to win individual gold if any of her competitors are too young.

But, you can bet on the Team USA women’s gymnastics team to win gold — even if 16- and 17-year-olds contributed to Team USA’s winning point total. That’s true for a country’s running or swimming relays as well.

Iowa’s age restriction only applies to individual events.

Some sportsbooks in Iowa have promos ready for Olympics betting customers and have tied the offers to Team USA’s success:

At FanDuel Sportsbook in Iowa:

  • Place $100 in wagers on the Olympics prior to July 26 and you will receive a $1 site credit for every gold won by Team USA. The odds have to be -200 or longer. You don’t have to win the bet to receive the site credit.
  • As a new customer, you can receive $100 with your first $10 bet or $200 with your first $20 bet on any Olympics market.

At BetRivers in Iowa:

  • If you wager $500 on the Olympics, you get $1 on bronze medal.
  • Earn $2 for every silver medal and $1 for every bronze medal with a $100 wager.
  • If Iowa customers wager $2,500 or more, they get $3 for every USA gold, $2 for every USA silver and $1 for every bronze. Odds must be -200 or longer to qualify.

Olympic betting will be big business

The American Gaming Association (AGA) conducted its first-ever survey on Olympics betting expectations. It found that about 20.1 million American adults will bet on the Olympics.

Among those planning to bet:

  • 45% will bet on basketball
  • 34% will bet on soccer
  • 28% will bet on gymnastics
  • 27% will bet on swimming and
  • 27% will bet on track and field

Sports wagering  for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games was limited to Nevada. Since then, 21 states and Washington, DC, have made sports betting legal, according to the AGA.

The association added:

“Demonstrating Americans’ strong desire for legal betting options, 10% of Americans who do not plan to place a bet on this summer’s Games said they would be more likely to wager if it was legal to place an Olympic bet in their state.”

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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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