When you think about popular events people like to gamble on, you typically think of March Madness, the Super Bowl, or presidential elections. These are tailor-made for gambling because they’re high-viewership events with a clear winner and loser.
You might not think you could bet on a TV show that has already wrapped filming. But you can, including on the upcoming season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
It’s strange to think about people betting real money on the outcome of a dramatic TV show, but people love gambling — 30 states have some version of legalized gambling. Some sportsbooks are allowing people to make various Game of Thrones bets before the eighth and final season, which debuts on Sunday, April 14.
One reason that “Game of Thrones” is uniquely positioned to take bets is its combative nature. The show features houses vying for power, wars between families, and lots of deaths. They are similar in that way to sporting events or elections because they have a clear, indisputable outcome.
It’s important to note that this type of wagering is legal, depending on your location. Many international countries have legalized this form of wagering, and several U.S. states have done the same with New Jersey being the latest.
Two major themes of Game of Thrones are power and survival, so it makes sense that a lot of the wagers reflect those issues. People can bet on which character will die first, if a character will die at all, and who will rule the kingdom when the show is complete.
Adam Burns, sportsbook manager for the international betting site BetOnline.ag, which is based in Panama, broke down how he makes odds for events like this, and it’s not all that scientific.
“I have a guy who works for me who is a massive Game of Thrones fan. He watches the show and reads all the books, and we’ll piece it together,” Burns said. “When I do an NFL game there are stats on it, here there are none.”
Another important aspect of setting odds for an event like this is creating small maximum bet amounts. On setting bet limits, Burns said, “We are not taking 10k bets on this, it’s pretty small. You could bet 50-100 bucks.”
Betting limits for the “entertainment” section of Betonline.ag, which is where Game of Thrones is listed, allow for a max bet of $50. Even a $50 bet can bring in a pretty big return if a longshot event cashes in.
The show has obviously already wrapped filming and the events of season 8 are set in stone. Pre-recorded events like a TV series or some awards shows are ripe for people with insider information to game the system, but Burns isn’t concerned.
“There are people who know the outcome, but if they are willing to risk their jobs to make a couple hundred bucks, go ahead,” Burns explained.
His sportsbook is not worried about HBO employees who know the events of the finale. Burns says he actually will welcome action any way he can.
“We are willing to take a hit to get people engaged and get people on the site,” he admits. To Burns, these bets are more about creating a buzz than actual bookmaking.
Getting eyeballs to betting sites is a tough job. Burns seems to think that losing money on Game of Thrones bets are small potatoes if you can get people hooked and betting regularly on other things.