Soccer will also be an extremely popular wager, as will the women’s heptathlon, where star British athlete Jessica Ennis is expected to compete for gold.
And this being famously soggy London, of course they are taking bets on the weather, paying even-money that rain will mar the opening night.
But the gambling story is not all fun and games.
Punters can also bet on which country will win the overall medals table (the U.S. term for gamblers — to contact them with any bet they can dream up. If that’s not enough to make an Olympic fan cry, Ladbrokes will pay $50 on a $1 bet that it will rain every day, and 10-to-1 that a strike by transit workers will halt train service on the London Underground.
Crilly said the betting industry is heavily regulated and immediately reports suspicious activity to Britain’s Gambling Commission.
Ladbrokes, another British bookmaker, will offer 11,000 different wagers during the games, according to spokeswoman Jessica Bridge. is favored, with China a close second), or how many golds the host nation will take home.
Who is to say Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen should be a 15-to-8 shot in dressage, an equestrian discipline? Or if Sweden’s Anders Gustafsson should be set as a 9-to-1 shot in the 1,000-meter men’s single kayak race?
London betting houses will offer odds on almost anything, including all 26 sports at the games, from the 100-meter dash to fencing, from diving to soccer. Tough luck, presumably, if aliens don’t make first contact until the next day.
The British betting industry is worth $9 billion a year, one of the biggest in the world, according to a 2010 study by accounting and consultancy firm Deloitte. “If they were to want $77,500 or more on Bolt, then we will happily lay it.”
Other longshots get slightly better odds, like 250-to-1 that every team in the 4×400-meter relay final drops the baton, or 33-to-1 that flamboyant London Mayor Boris Johnson accidentally lights his hair on fire with the Olympic torch.
A major challenge for the gambling houses is setting the odds for the more obscure sports.
Bridge says Ladbrokes has already taken a $15,500 bet on Bolt to win the 100-meter dash and expects much larger wagers ahead of the big race.
“We try to cater to most people’s tastes,” said Joe Crilly, a spokesman for William Hill, a gambling house that encourages punters — the U.K. “If we were to see an unusually large bet for a sport we were not particularly expecting large amounts of money for, it would flash up … They also offer online gambling in 182 countries, though not in the United States or in other countries where it is prohibited.
“We have a lot of strict regulations in place to guard against any funny business,” Crilly said. The industry expects to handle a record $155 million in wagers during the July 27-Aug.12 competition — even some pretty outlandish parlays.
William Hill offers perhaps the longest odds of the games: 1,000-to-1 that a flying saucer will appear over Olympic Stadium during Friday’s opening ceremony. If there was any suggestion that it was suspicious we would get authorities involved.”
There have been fears that the massive gambling volume could lead to corruption, which would forever mar London’s legacy. Most houses offer online gambling as well.
LONDON – What are the odds of a UFO sighting during the London Olympics opening ceremony? Or of the final torch bearer tripping as they ascend to light the flame? Or would you prefer a more traditional wager on the battle for gold between Russia and Spain in synchronized swimming duos?
The most heavily wagered event during the London games is expected to be the 100-meter dash, where Jamaican Usain Bolt, the reigning Olympic champion, is still the odds-on favorite despite a rough run-up to the games that saw him bested in trials by countryman Yohan Blake. The IOC has barred athletes from betting on the games — and sports, police and gambling industry officials plan to meet daily to ensure that no illegal bets are placed.
July 22, 2012: In this photo provided by LOCOG, Amelia Hempleman-Adams poses with the Olympic Flame on top of a London Eye pod on the Torch Relay leg through London. (AP2012)
. Those bets include that the Olympics will be over budget, that a British athlete will be photographed eating a McDonald’s Big Mac, or that the athletes village in Olympic Park will run out of condoms.
Crilly says ahead of the Olympics, betting firms assign teams to research each sport, spending weeks immersing themselves in facts and figures.
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has said previously that illegal betting can fuel the scourge of match-fixing.
“We anticipate our high roller customers will fancy him to do the business,’ she said