What a first half. That could be the sportsbook refrain as the Tokyo Olympics approach midpoint.

Books report steadily improving business as New Jersey online sports bettors, and others, embrace the new Olympic gambling age.

Patrons parlay the roots of pro-betting circuits like the NBA and PGA into wagers on men’s basketball and golf. soccer, track and field, gymnastics, and swimming have long-standing popularity that creates a natural gambling environment.

Books and ‘dog bettors also profit from a prophetic assessment made two weeks ago by Johnny Avello, the director of race sportsbook operations for DraftKings Sportsbook. He told PlayNJ.com that Olympic popularity would spiral with a major personality or event.

And both happened.

Tokyo Olympics betting, the shocking and unexpected

The shocking loss by the United States Olympic men’s basketball team to France and the unexpected bailout of premier gymnast Simone Biles signaled this would be no ordinary maiden gambling voyage.

Combined, they turned a major DraftKings giveaway into a windfall and altered expectations of the United States over-under medal count of 111 or 112 across the major NJ online sportsbooks.

What a tipoff to an Olympiad running through Aug. 8.

“We’re doing pretty well with the Olympics,” Avello told NJGamblingSites.com this week.  “The money is being sprinkled around. Even in some sports in which we didn’t know how we would do, the action continues to pick up.

“I think it helps that people are seeing the events every day and eventually everybody has an opinion about something. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Olympics.”

Avello noted DraftKings still writes the most tickets with basketball. He said the game between the United States and France was “our second biggest handle of the day.”

“It was bigger than what we get on most MLB games,” said Avello. 

DraftKings and the gift not taken

It was Christmas in July for the DraftKings faithful.  But it literally became a dead giveaway.

DraftKings put up an apparent freebie for anyone betting at least $50, providing a $1 bonus for every point the U.S. Olympic basketball team defeated France by in the opening round.

How much could you afford to win?

We are talking about a U.S. men’s basketball that entered the game against France with 25 consecutive basketball triumphs.

This was simply bet-and-collect, an Olympic version of Hammer the Over, a popular DraftKings promo in which everybody wins.

Guess what?

DraftKings couldn’t give this money away.

The American team looked disorganized, maybe disinterested, in losing.

Never mind that they then beat Iran 120-66, a 54-point thumping, in their second game. The action was on the opener.

The DraftKings promotion, merely designed to prime the pump for overall action, wound up draining the pump.

Avello said the odds boost ended becoming a revenue maker for DraftKings.

However, it wasn’t planned to be that way.

“We like to throw the promotions out there and it’s a loser for us most of the time. We do it to get people engaged, to reward customers who have been playing with DK for a while,” said Avello. “We were all very surprised to see that.”

Simone Biles puts an unexpected twist on Tokyo Olympics

The Olympics, no matter where they take place, usually include some unexpected twists.

But it seems nobody saw Biles decision to pull herself out of the women’s gymnastics team final and all-around competitions coming.

Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into the American medal-counts prop.

We are talking about Simone Biles here, winner of four golds and one bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

After her first vault attempt in this week’s team final didn’t go as planned, Biles shocked the world, including the live TV audience watching here in the States. 

After breaking the news to her teammates that she was pulling out for health reasons, Biles stepped aside and watched her teammates win the silver medal.

For bettors holding an “over” medals ticket, this was an unexpected development.

Biles, the favorite to win the all-around, stepping aside opened the door for one of her Team USA teammates to enjoy a golden moment. Suni Lee will be leaving the Tokoyo Olympics as the women’s all-around champion.

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‘My Beautiful Reward,’ the Boss’ daughter hits the board

Jessica Springsteen is one of the late additions to the NJ sports betting board.

For rock legend Bruce Springsteen, this underrated classic song extends to the reward of seeing his daughter Jessica compete for the American equestrian team.

For bettors who patiently waited weeks to see if they could wager on the daughter of The Boss, the breakthrough finally occurred.

Late Wednesday night, Jessica showed up on the board. 

Springsteen went up at +4500 at DraftKings Springsteen to win the jumping competition.

She’s also part of a team that is +270 to win the gold. It doesn’t matter that there are 13 people with lower betting odds than Jessica Springsteen.  She made it.

Lloyd, women’s soccer team still in the medal hunt

New Jersey bettors have other excellent human-interest dramas.

Delran native Carli Lloyd and the women’s soccer team is heading to the semifinals. Earlier today, Team USA defeated the Netherlands, 4-2 on penalty kicks, and secured at least a chance at the bronze medal.

Canada is up next.

Call it good news for bettors following an uneven first three games in round-robin play where the team went 1-1-1. Yes, they remain the DraftKings favorite to win the gold.

Here are the gold medal odds from DraftKings for the four remaining teams:

  • USA -125
  • Sweeden +175
  • Canada +800
  • Australia +900

More local ties to Tokyo games

Have you heard the name Vashti Cunningham? She is the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles great Randall Cunningham. The younger Cunningham is looking as sleek in the high jump as her father did leaping away from would-be tacklers 30 years ago. 

Cunningham is +250 to win gold at DraftKings and a strong medal possibility. The high jump is scheduled for Wednesday night (Thursday in Tokyo). 

For those seeking something sooner, check out Dunellen native Sydney McLaughlin. She remains the -330 chalk to win the 400-meter hurdles. 

That event will be part of NBC’s primetime Olympic coverage tonight.

BetMGM: Can lightning strike twice?

BetMGM has France at +1000 and the US -250 to win the men’s basketball gold medal. These odds are projecting a stiff improvement into the premium on this bet.

Most books mirror this sentiment. Anyone taking France believes the first victory was no fluke.

BetMGM also has prominent specials on individual games.

William Hill and golf betting odds at Olympics

William Hill builds upon its PGA popularity for the Olympic version, which occurs in the final weekend of July. Some of the world’s top golfers are showcased for this four-day affair.

So, guess who grabbed the first-round lead? None other than Sepp Straka, the Austrian who missed the cut at the 3M tournament last week.

Straka did not receive much pre-tournament money. In a field that included Collin Morikawa, who won the 3M, how could there be?

Such is the beauty of the underdog world and this Olympiad, in which bettors are coming to expect the unexpected. Straka enters today’s third round three strokes out of the lead. 

Olympics offers excellence in competition

How about breaking a world record, but losing? 

The United States 4 x200 swim relay team, anchored by superstar Katie Ledecky, did just that.

They finished second to China, with Australia third.

All three teams broke the existing world mark. More importantly, Ledecky increased her medal count to three.

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

 

 

 

About

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.