Betting on the sporting events of any Olympic Games is a huge industry, the 2014 Sochi are no exception despite restrictive gambling laws.
Sports betting in Russia is one of the very few gambling activities currently allowed and fully regulated by the Russian gambling laws. The draconian change to the gambling regulations came in 2009, when President Putin signed a law, banning all gambling activities in the country except lottery and betting on sports.
If they wanted to continue to operate, casinos and everything else would have to relocate to one of four outlined gambling zones. However, Altai Krai, Kaliningrad Oblast, Krasnodar Krai, and Primorsky Krai are too far away from major cities to be profitable or attractive to gamblers.
The situation with sports betting in Russia
Land-based bookies are fully in line with the law in Russia, but they are not very widespread unlike in many Western countries. Online sportsbooks in Russia are outlawed, but some of them are still operational on a semi-legal basis.
Most major land-based betting operators do offer their services online to the Russian population, but they are all hosted off-shore in order to escape the long arm of the law. And of course there is a wide selection of foreign online bookies catering to Russian gamers. A long list of online sports betting destinations are available in Russian language and some of them even accept deposits in rubles.
Some of the biggest land-based (and in some cases online) sportsbooks in Russia include: Marathon Bet (or Pan Bet), Fonbet, BetCity, VivaroBet, Olimp, Leon Bets, Pari Match, Outcome Bet, and many more. For the list of online sportsbooks accepting players from the Russian Federation, please consult our selection here.
Betting on Olymic sports during the Games
• A long list of online sportsbooks in Russia is accepting bets on the Games
• Although most of the online outlets are outlawed, they still manage to operate
• Land-based betting is also big, and it’s in full compliance with the laws
What sporting events punters are betting at the 2014 Olympics
Olympic Games are huge on sports betting, and Sochi 2014 is no exception. In fact, with the record number of sporting events and some new disciplines this time around, there are actually more opportunities for punters and fans to combine watching the Games live with excitement from wagering a couple of bucks on their team or athlete.
Here’s a selection of the most popular sporting events those who wish to bet on sports in Russia favor.
The crown event of all Winter Olympic Games this time around will see the top professionals from both NHL and the European KHL come together to contest the gold medal. Russians are of course on home ground and share the favorable odds with the defending champions Canada.
Canadians have won 11 Olympic golds, three of them in a row at the last 3 Games. Soviet Union has 7 golds, and the Unified Team has added another one in 1992, but that was the last time the Russians won. So, maybe Sochi will be the Games for them.
The bookies favor both Russia and Canada to win the gold with 19/10 odds, while Sweden is next in line with 11/2. Team USA is following with 7/1 odds, while Finland received 11/1, Czech Republic got 12/1, and Switzerland and Slovakia are far behind with respective odds of 33/1 and 40/1.
Women’s competition is less hot, where Canada has the most chances and will probably play USA in the final. Finnish and Russian women are expected to contest the bronze medal. However, these are the Olympic Games and anything can happen.
The second most popular event to wager on at internet betting sites in Russia is figure-skating. The sport is enormously popular in Russia and worldwide. The Russians have already won the gold medal in team competition, a brand new discipline. The most memorable performance was by the 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia, but veteran Evgeni Plushenko has also shined in the team competition before pulling out of men’s.
However, Russians are also strong in the other two disciplines: Pair and Ice Dance figure skating. Contestants from Canada, Germany, USA, Japan, China and others will try their best to upset the Russians on home turf.
Betting on skiing
Individual and relay events in both men’s and women’s cross-country skiing and biathlon usually attract lots of spectators. Naturally, it’s also one of the top betting opportunities for punters. Worldwide bookies and online sportsbooks in Russia are offering a wide selection of odds for all competitions. The favorites are Norway, Germany, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and others.
Alpine skiing is also big with fans and punters, there are lots of disciplines to look forward to and bet on. The favorites, Norwegian Axel Lund Svindal and American Bode Millier have already missed out on the Downhill medals, but there are plenty of other disciplines left including Super Combined Downhill and Slalom, Slaom, Giant Slalom and Super G.
Bobsleigh may not be the biggest events of the Games, but the participation of Jamaican team surely adds excitement and attention to this discipline. The stands to see Cool Running movie in action will be packed, but the Jamaicans are, naturally, outsiders, with 500/1 odds to win the 2-men event.
The favorites here are of course USA with 11/8 odds, followed by the Swiss team with a line of 12/5, and the Germans with 4/1. As for the 4-men event, USA are again the top of the list with 11/5 odds, followed by the hosts, Russia and Germany both at 3/1 odds. Jamaica is sadly not participating in the 4-men bob event.
Betting on the Olympics Medal table
Another popular way to bet on the Olympic Games at the online sportsbooks in Russia and worldwide is the overall medals table.
Norway is expected to grab the most gold medals with 4/7 odds, followed by USA at 7/2, Germany at 9/2, Canada at 6/1, and Russia way behind with 40/1 odds.
USA are the favorites to win the most medals with 1/1 odds, followed by Norway with 9/5 odds, Germany at 6/1, and Russia with 8/1 odds at land-based and online sportsbooks.
Unexpected aspect of Olympic betting
The sheer amount of betting on the Olympic Games and subsequently tax dollars generated by the bookies for the Russian state coffers have made the authorities shift their point of view on gambling. Although there will be no rush to abolish the ban on gambling, some developments may happen allowing more freedoms in that respect.
President Putin has already said they will not be transforming Sochi into the Russian Las Vegas after the Games, as some have predicted, but things might still change in that direction as well.
Looking at all the facts and figures, especially the profits and taxes generated by betting on the Olympic Games, we can certainly conclude that Russia is winning is big gamble on 2014 Sochi Games. While they are still far from breaking even, there’s certainly a positive dynamic.
Check out the whole series of feature articles dealing with Russia’s big gamble on the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.