Rio 2016 v London 2012: Olympic Betting Comparison

Bradley Gibbs

The 2016 Olympic Games was a success for many, not least of all Team GB, who became the best ever performers, in terms of medals won, in the games directly after hosting. However, from a betting perspective, it seems that Rio’s showpiece event failed to live up to the expectations set by it’s predecessor.

It is said that the volume of bets taken on Rio 2016 fell dramatically short of that taken on the games four years earlier. Leading online bookmaker William Hill said: “Turnover was fractionally over half, in Rio, of what it was in London”. An interesting stat, but what are the reasons behind this? Well, for a start, William Hill are a UK based company, as are many of the other top bookmakers, so a major sporting event in the heart of the UK is likely to perform better than one thousands of miles away.

Elsewhere, football is said to have played a large part in the demise of betting activity. “Football is by far our most popular Olympic sport for betting, so the fact that there was no GB team (either men or women) entered will have undoubtedly lessened interest”, said a spokesperson for William Hill.

Perhaps another contributor to low betting activity is the fact that there are several sports/events in the Olympics that aren’t necessarily associated with betting. For example, football, basketball, tennis, along with volleyball and handball are the main sports as far as a natural betting culture is concerned. Which leaves a huge number of events largely untouched by the betting public. This suggests that, Olympics or not, people tend to stick with what they know. According to William Hill, at both Rio and London, football, basketball and tennis were by far the most popular sports in terms of turnover.

The timing of Rio 2016, in comparison with London 2012, is also unlikely to have helped betting activity. In London the Olympics started July 27, whereas this time around proceedings didn’t get underway until Saturday 6th August. From a betting perspective this certainly wasn’t ideal as it meant the games coincided with the start of the new Premier League football season – an event that is arguably the cornerstone of UK sports betting.

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