Betting on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Betting on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

The 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo are a little different than Olympics cycles in the past.

For starters, Tokyo was meant to host more than a year ago, in 2020. The global pandemic forced a postponement. Another odd feature? No live spectators at these Games, a move also prompted by fears of a COVID-19 outbreak. It’s also highly unusual for an Olympics event to take place in an odd-numbered year.

No matter how you look at it, the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo are just different.

One thing that’s not different about this year’s Summer Games – opportunities to place bets on Olympics events like basketball, track & field, and diving.

This guide to betting on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is designed as an introduction to Olympics sportsbook bets. On this page, we’ll talk a little about how to bet on the Games, odds for certain competitions, some thoughts on national team performances, and anything else we think will be helpful to a person just getting started with Olympics sports bets.

How to Bet on the Summer Olympics

The first step towards confident Olympics betting is understanding the common betting styles available for these events. You’ll need to know how to read the odds you find and how to place wagers according to different bet types.

Money Line Olympics Bets

The money line, sometimes called a “straight-up bet,” is by far the most common way to wager on Olympics contests. Placing a money line wager means picking the outright winner of an Olympic event. Money line bets at most online sportsbooks that offer the Olympics market are available as low as $0.50 or $1.

Below is an example of a set of money line odds for a women’s soccer match between South Korea and Germany:

South Korea

In any money line wager, the favorite to win is shown with a minus symbol – in this case, that’s South Korea. The number next to the favorite is the amount of cash you’d have to bet for a $100 payout.

The underdog in a money line wager is indicated by a plus sign – in this case, that’s Germany. The number next to the underdog indicates how much money you would win if you were to bet $100 and Germany were to pull off the upset.

Don’t be confused by that $100 number – you don’t have to bet $100, that’s just a ratio. If you bet $10, you’d win $14.50 for a successful underdog bet on Germany. The ratio scales up and down to cover bets of any size.

Point Spread Olympics Bets

Fewer Olympics events produce point spread opportunities – that’s just the nature of these competitions. That said, you can find point spread wagers for the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics at any book that offers this market.

Point spread bets are usually a team sport thing, with the idea being that the book can handicap the favorite and sweeten the deal on the underdog. Let’s look at an example of a point spread bet for an Olympic basketball match between France and Spain:

-7.5 (-110)
+7.5 (-110)

Like with the money line odds, we learn a lot from these little symbols and words. In this example, France is a 7.5-point favorite over Spain, as indicated by the + and – symbols next to the team’s names. But the number here means something different than in the money line.

In this example, a bet on France only pays off if the French beat Spain by eight points or more. A bet on Spain would be a winner if the Spanish team wins outright or lose by fewer than eight points. What about the -110 number? That tells us that a bet on either team requires a bet of $110 to win $100.

Olympics Totals (Over/Under) Betting

The most common Over/Under bet for Olympics games focuses on the number of gold medals each country wins at the Games, allowing also for head-to-head wagers in which two countries compete against one another.

Here’s a typical totals bet you might place on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics:

Total Japan Gold Medals

45.5 +110
45.5 +120

Here, you can wager on whether Japan will win at least 46 gold medals or not. You see that both options related to this wager come with a money line indicated how much money you’ll win ($110 or $120) if your bet of $100 pays off.

Olympics Futures Bets

The long news cycle related to any Olympic Games lends itself nicely to the sports betting futures market. Online sportsbooks released a wide range of futures options for the Tokyo Games that cover a mind-numbing set of propositions for this global 16-day sporting event.

The most common Olympics futures bets cover total medal counts for different countries, as well as an overall bet on which country will win the most gold medals at the Games.

Olympics Prop Bets

Prop bets are generally the domain of hardcore gamblers or casual sports fans. Betting on odd propositions like the performance of individual athletes, top goal scorers, the odds of golfers hitting holes-in-one or scoring a Double Eagle, etc. Prop bets cover just about anything you can think of related to a sport, with some really obscure wagers along the way.

The 2021 Tokyo Olympics are the first Games we’ve ever seen where books are released props on whether or not athletes will launch some kind of protest, either during the Closing and Opening Ceremony or on the medal podium.

Free Olympics Picks

2021 Tokyo Olympics Betting FAQ

This short guide is designed to address the most common questions we get about betting on the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Have a question? Check here to see if we’ve already addressed it.

Generally speaking, yes - placing online sports wagers for Olympics events is totally legal. Most US-facing sportsbooks have restrictions on customers from certain states, so as long as you aren’t from one of those states, you’re allowed to bet as much as your book will allow.

Placing wagers at licensed online sportsbooks is no different from walking into a book in Las Vegas. Be sure to check with your book and your state laws if you’re genuinely concerned about the legality of these Olympics wagers.

Most events are being held in and immediately around Tokyo. Remember that these games were scheduled for 2020 originally and that no live spectators are allowed. The only way to watch Tokyo Olympics action is to check your TV schedule and watch, from July 23rd to August 8th. Paris is the host for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and Beijing is the host for the next Olympiad, the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

This is a subjective question, but we get asked this pretty frequently when we bring up Olympics wagers to friends and family. Olympics wagers are very popular in parts of Europe and Asia, though not as common in the US, where longstanding attitudes towards betting and sports have created a sort of Puritan ethic related to the industry.

However, Olympics on TV are massively popular, and any time people have legal access to betting on a popular sport, they’re going to do it. As more Americans find out about safe and legal options for placing Olympics wagers, we believe the popularity will continue to grow.

Sports bets online at licensed bookmakers are legal in most US states. In a handful of states (like Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada), bettors are limited to specific state-run wagering sites, or are prevented from participating at all.

That said, we know of a half-dozen US-facing sportsbooks that do accept American wagers on both Winter and Summer Olympics. A little bit of research and fine-print reading will lead you to legal and safe places to drop cash on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.


Sports betting is a way to get involved in sports contests that we may otherwise not have much natural interest in. Placing a bet on your teams’ medal count is also a fun and gently patriotic way to show your support. No doubt, some professional gamblers will also take part in Olympics wagers. The reasons for placing a sports bet on the 2021 Tokyo Games are as numerous as the people placing them.

Whether your purpose is to keep the endless swimming and diving competitions exciting, make a little money in advance of the NFL season, or as part of your overall gambling strategy, the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will offer abundant opportunities to place sports wagers at your favorite online sportsbook.

Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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