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Las Vegas: Why An Olympic Gamble Is Approaching


The past few weeks have been another whirlwind of activity around the fantasy sports and gaming space. While states line up with their newly formed regulations on daily fantasy sports as the NFL preseason approaches, the continued debate over when and how legalized sports betting will take place continues to roll along, and every time talk of an NFL team moving to Las Vegas, or discussions with the recently announced NHL expansion into “Sin City” comes up, the debate rages on as to what this could mean for new revenue streams for professional sports in the United States.

This week, as the NBA Summer League comes to an end Team USA will begin its training for the Olympics in Las Vegas, all within eyeshot and earshot of thousands of slot machines and other games, all legal still only in Nevada. The same holds true for sports gambling, and now the Olympics will fall into that mix in Vegas.

Earlier this year there was a state regulation change that now allows bookmakers to place betting lines on Olympic sporting or athletic events sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee. The chairman of the Gaming Control Board has the authority to remove an event or contest from betting activity bit for Rio it is full steam ahead.

The Olympic push was a relatively new salvo fired into the sports and gaming world. While it is somewhat ironic that Nevada, the state where until recently lobbyists were spending big bucks to keep Federal laws blocking other states to engage in sports wagering, is looking to increase the opportunities on global sport, would look to add international and potentially obscure sports to its wagering platform, the reality is that the change shows just how much global fantasy and gaming is gaining steam, and consumers are getting more used to gaming as a regular part of their engagement experience.

The Olympic question is interesting for many reasons. The statute did not allow wagering on the Games because of “amateurism” and the use of judges who could influence votes, yet there are as many as seven countries in Europe where Olympic wagering is allowed, with no discernible issues. There is also the growing blurring of what is considered amateur in a world where the Olympics have become much more high-tech, much more expensive, and much more subsidized by brands and events where athletes get paid…and rightfully so. The amount of security spent on The Games these days’ accounts for all kinds of monitoring in the digital space, so the thought of even more corruption being brought into The Games because of wagering seems to be becoming more and more of a non-issue.

The real intriguing aspect for Olympic gaming is on the fan engagement and revenue side. The IOC is constantly looking to engage a younger audience, one which is digitally savvy and is accustomed to finding new ways to be involved with whatever event they are watching or experiencing, whether that is in entertainment or sport. The ramification of The Games, one where you can, either for dollars or points, better follow athletes and the goings on in sports big and small from hundreds of countries, raises the value and the consciousness of The Games beyond what is done today. On the revenue side, the IOC, always looking for new streams of revenue, can reap huge licensing fees for data to companies who would engage in Olympic gaming and fantasy, an area which professional sports from the Premier League to the NBA and the NHL, are realizing today.

Like with all sports wagering issues going on today, for Nevada this will be less about a brick and mortar engagement (although it wouldn’t hurt to have more consumers in a sports book during the dog days of August watching the Rio Games) as it is a play to grab more of the fast-growing global digital space.

The digital gaming space, is where the real dollars will be made going forward, and the ability to have that space as an offering to casual Olympic fans makes great sense. Rest assured the major leagues in North America will continue to watch the developments with Nevada and the Olympics, as gaming and gambling continue to be a lucrative, enticing and still controversial engagement point for all.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]