The last time Americans could walk into a Las Vegas sports book during the Olympics and make a bet on their country, Michael Johnson was still winning medals, Vince Carter was making a towering Frenchman famous, and Michael Phelps was debuting in the Games as a 15-year-old also-ran on the U.S Olympic swim team. This year, all that changes.
For the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games, Las Vegas sports books are accepting bets on the Olympics this summer, providing casinos a financial boost in the dog days of August, keeping bettors glued to the TV as Carmelo, KD, and company attempt to cover massive points spreads, and delivering the final blow to the idea of Olympic purity.
For years Americans could bet on the Olympics in Vegas, but that right was stripped away in 2001 thanks largely to Senator John McCain. His Amateur Sports Integrity Act would have banned betting on all amateur sports in order to protect college athletes from “the harmful effects of gambling,” he wrote at the time.
But college sports are a big business in Vegas and Nevada’s sports books wanted nothing to do with McCain’s law. So they cut a deal. Betting on college sports would remain legal, but betting on other amateur competitions, such as the Olympics and the Little League World Series, would no longer be allowed.
No big deal, Vegas thought at the time. There was never much interest in Olympic events anyway. If taking away the ability to post odds on amateur powerlifting would appease McCain, then the sports books were happy to play along — as long as they got to keep March Madness.
More at New York Magazine