Can You Bet on the Olympics? A Mental Health Question Too

Kindbridge Behavioral Health doesn’t just monitor statistics regarding problem gambling helpline calls in the United States. In order to understand what’s coming and create preventative strategies for the public, we keep a keen eye on shifts in consumer behavior as it pertains to casino gaming and sports betting. With the 2024 Summer Olympic Games approaching we have logged a significant uptick in online search for one particular query: “Can you bet on the Olympics”. At press, there is a 900% 3-month increase and 9900% year over year rise for this search expression within the United States:

Can You Bet on the Olympics

Source: Google

This data tells us that a wave of Americans will be betting on the Olympics. Further, the query infers that an unseasoned group of sports bettors will be participating because experienced online bettors already know that they can wager on the games.

While some see betting on the Olympics as an opportunity to be even more engaged as a follower and viewer, it presents a mental and behavioral health challenge to a number of vulnerable individuals. Read ahead to learn more.

Why Betting on the Olympic Games Opens the Gates for Increased Risk of Problematic Gambling in America

Attracts Non-Traditional Sports Bettors

Props for Mainstream Public

There is a gamble on everything culture in America that has been allowed to foster with the proliferation of proposition betting. Proposition (or prop) betting has grown from player props (i.e. over/under on how many points a player will score, etc.) to entertainment and novelty props regarding who will win the latest season of Survivor or America’s Got Talent and the like. The betting market for the Olympic Games is loaded with prop odds that are of interest to the mainstream public. Examples of actual actionable prop betting odds that have been (or continue to be) offered by regulated and unregulated operators include (but are not exclusive to) the following:

  • Will an athlete drop the Olympic torch?
  • Which country will win the most gold medals?
  • Which country will win the most medals overall?
  • How many gold medals with the USA win?
  • Will an athlete be disqualified for cheating?
  • Will an event be cancelled?

Prop bets attract non-traditional sports bettors to engage in gambling when they previously have had no intention of doing so. As mentioned in the introduction of this article, a portion of the Americans searching “Can you bet on the Olympics” are included in this population. Those who exhibit vulnerability factors for gambling disorder are theoretically placed at greater risk than they would be without exposure to prop betting on a global event.


The Olympic Games may also encourage betting behavior from those who traditionally abstain. This is due to strong feelings of nationalism and patriotism. The media encourages the public to get more involved with incessant reporting of medal counts:

“A prominent and overt manifestation of nationalism in the Olympics is the media-driven medal counts. Seemingly since American broadcast networks began purchasing Olympic media rights, the networks aggressively promoted medal counts for American athletes as a way to stimulate interest in its product, television broadcasts, by creating a rivalry between the United States and the rest of the world.”


Sports betting operators jump all over these strong feelings of nationalism and patriotism. They encourage viewers (including non-traditional bettors) to capitalize on new player sign-up promotions and support their country via wagers on U.S. athletes and teams. Once the Olympic Games are over, this new player base will be bombarded with re-marketing campaigns to get them to bet on the sports betting schedule to follow in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Extreme Viewers

Another segment of the American population may face increased risk with the sharp increase in Olympic betting interest. Action and extreme sports fans, who once existed in their own “bubble” of sports fandom, are now interested in the Summer Olympics after the IOC introduced breakdancing, skateboarding, and surfing into the Games in 2020/2021.

Sports betting operators have jumped all over this previously untapped segment, promoting directly to them through sponsored content and extreme sport athlete sponsorships. This content and these athletes are not under the watchful eye of regulators as found with the big leagues (NFL, NBA, NCAA, etc.). Want an example? BetOnline (an unregulated operator in the USA) stickers have been popping up on the boards of America’s most famous surfing stars, including Nathan Florence. Nathan has one of the most popular surf-content YouTube channels in the world, and he just so happens to be the brother of World Champion surfer John John Florence who is competing for Team USA at the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in France. Note the not-so inconspicuous BetOnline sticker on Nathan’s board in a recent vlog:

Can You Bet on the Olympics
Source: Nathan Florence YouTube

The concern about problematic gambling behavior among this population segment is founded. Fans and participants of action sports (generally one in the same) skew younger and have elevated risk seeking personalities. Young people with elevated risk seeking personalities are more vulnerable to certain behavioral health disorders. Problem gambling is one such cooccurring disorder. View more on this at-risk population segment right here.

Unregulated Market

The global nature of the Olympic Games brings unregulated operators out of the woodwork. These online operators target American bettors, but have infrastructure set-up in international territories such as Curaçao in order to skirt regulations that are otherwise put into place to protect vulnerable populations. Lax regulations apply to deposit and withdrawal methods, but also self-exclusion protocols, and even age restrictions given that an individual rarely requires more than a credit card or cryptocurrency account to register. Furthermore, unregulated operators don’t abide by rules regarding gambling marketing tactics. Lastly, from a holistic perspective, tax revenues are typically not collected by U.S. states when wages are won/lost with unregulated operators, a percentage of which would otherwise be allocated towards problem gambling support systems. View more on how unregulated sports betting sites are feeding the gambling crisis in America.

No Break in a Sports Bettors’ Schedule

The two-month stretch between the end of the NBA playoffs and the start of the NFL/NCAAF season gives the typical American sports bettor a break before they pony-up their accounts. The NFL, NBA, and NCAA represent the three most popular sports betting markets in the United States. Sportsbooks sustain their business on the in-season hold (what they make from bettors) through late June, July, and August while they await the return of the primary schedule. This period gives the typical sports bettor a summer break, which is important for those who walk a fine line between being an habitual and compulsive sports bettor. But during a Summer Olympic Games year, there is no timeout. Not only is there an above-mentioned patriotic and prop-betting lure, the same athletes (NBA) they wager on in the autumn, winter, and spring are participating in the Olympics.

If you have a problematic relationship with gambling, enjoy the Summer Olympic Games only as a fan using these tips to viewership without betting. In addition, engage in conversation with a specialist who can help you break the handcuffs that problem gambling has around your life.

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Can You Bet on the Olympics