Failed Boston Marathon Bid To Lead To Betting On Track, Marathon Races?



  • DraftKings was rejected in April, shortly before the Boston Marathon
  • Running is one of very few sports that is not available for betting in America
  • An industry expert believes that betting on running could be the ticket to making increasing its viewership and following

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) last month made the decision not to grant DraftKings Sportsbook’s request to publish betting odds for the Boston Marathon.

The MGC said that its decision was based in part on the low amount of time it had to protect the integrity of the event. The event also wasn’t part of a catalog published earlier in the year that contained events that were allowed to be bet on.

An expert in the field of sports betting and business, however, feels that the MGC missed a golden opportunity to bring running betting before the masses and increase the popularity of the sport.

The missing key?

The expert that delivered the verdict is Darren Rovell. He said that the denied Boston Marathon request was a “missed opportunity to draw more attention to running.”

Sports betting was legalized in 2018, and 37 states have since authorized local markets. Massachusetts joined the list of states to do so with the January 31 launch of in-person betting at three local casinos and then launched its online sports betting market on March 10 in anticipation of March Madness.

Legal sportsbooks claimed $7.5 billion in gross revenue in 2022, a 75% increase year-to-year, according to Yahoo Finance. 

Jesse Williams, owner of the race organization company Sound Running, shared his support for the legalization of betting on running events. He believes that just like sports betting is often synonymous with major sports such as basketball and football, wagering has a similar place in the world of running. 

“I don’t know if there’s a sport that needs betting more than track and field,” Williams said to Outside. “Track needs something to change the game and we have to keep our minds open to some of these new ideas.”

Williams’ argument stood on several pillars. First, he believed that betting on running events would bring more attention to the sport, which would lead to more sponsorship and media opportunities. He also said that adding betting into the equation would increase the enjoyment and attention paid to running’s longer events, such as the 10k in track and half-marathon and marathon on the road.

Judging the landscape

Adding sports betting to running comes with pros and cons, just as it does in all other sports. One of the most obvious concerns is match-fixing, which is an offense that is easier to commit in individual events.

“The integrity of our sport is of the utmost importance,” said the popular running group The New York Road Runners. “We are observing the sports betting landscape and its current impact on engaging audiences, but we do not have a stance to share at this time.”

Offshore sportsbooks such as Bovada offered betting odds for the Boston Marathon on April 17. World record holder Eliud Kipchoge was an enormous -500 favorite, but he only ended up in sixth. Second-favorite Evans Chebet (+900) won the event, and joint-third-favorites Gabriel Geay and Benson Kipruto got second and third.

On the women’s side, second-favorite Helen Obiri (+350) edged out the favorite Amane Beriso.

Betting on running is also legal and popular in Europe. The biggest 26.2-mile draws are the London Marathon and Berlin Marathon, and bettors can also access odds for Diamond League meets (the most popular professional track and field circuit). 

Despite Statista estimating that 50 million Americans participate in some form of running, the Boston Marathon only drew an average of 369,000 viewers on ESPN. Compare that to an event such as the Super Bowl, which had 113 million average viewers nationwide, and the gap is staggering.

There is no time-table on if or when sportsbooks will double back to lobby for the legalization of betting on running events.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.