When Will We Be Able to Bet on Rocket Launches?

Weather, mechanical problems, and even the stray tugboat can scrub a launch, making the odds interesting.

by Kastalia Medrano

With Blue Origin, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and others so busy sending satellites into orbit and science projects to the International Space Station, there are more rockets launching into space than ever.

But weather, mechanical problems, and even the stray tugboat can ruin the whole thing. This is to say nothing about landing a rocket back on Earth. It seems only natural to ask — when are we going to start betting on rocket launches?

Vegas oddsmakers don’t currently take such bets. But why? Raphael Esparza, a sports consultant for, tells Inverse that that’s not because gamblers wouldn’t be interested — on the contrary, rocket launch bets could be wildly popular — it’s that there’s a disconnect between the oddsmakers and the space travel community. Oddsmakers would need to be notified of an event several months in advance to make the necessary preparations. It would help, he added, if the launch were particularly huge.

We know betting on whether a rocket launch goes off as planned would yield dynamic results. A recent SpaceX mission took several launch attempts. One attempt was scrubbed because a tugboat came too close to the SpaceX droneship, floating landing pad.

About that droneship: SpaceX only recently landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a droneship after four previous attempts ended up in failure (here’s a video of that droneship landing failure). So we could have bet on whether the rocket would have landed on the droneship. Here’s what it looked like, by the way. Spectacular, isn’t it?

“If there was a significant one, something that would put a man on Mars or on the moon, something that would have a lot of people watching on TV, I can guarantee that in Vegas and all over Europe, because they bet on everything across the pond — that would be big.”

Like the Curiosity rover landing in 2012? “No, there wasn’t [betting on] that,” Esparza said, but prop betting has changed a lot since then. “These days there’s betting on what day people are going to have babies, you know?”

Esparza explained that the recent string of private spaceflight launches aren’t necessarily too small to bet on, it’s just that oddsmakers didn’t know about them. Betting on politics, for example, is huge right now because that stuff’s constantly on TV. Rocket launches like those of SpaceX and Blue Origin, while they’re gaining in popularity, haven’t yet reached that level of public attention.

“If someone called Vegas and said, ‘hey, there’s this huge launch in a couple of months,’ we would have enough time to put those odds up and also start calling the local media. That’s how it happens. These launches, I’m sure no one in our industry knew about them.”

With enough time and information, Esparza said, oddsmakers would be putting up multiple ways to bet on the launches. They’d look up the weather report, the crew manifest, what nations and organizations were involved. “And then once we have that, we’d easily try to put up at least four-plus betting options. Will there be a delay? That’s the first one we’d put up. If we knew six months in advance we could do what color will the rocket be? Will there be stripes? How many people, which astronauts? The more time and the more information people give us, the crazier the stuff we can think up.”

At the moment, though, you can at least bet on when alien life will be discovered — either choosing a year between now and 2020 or choosing 2020 or later.

“Obviously 2020 or later is the heavy favorite,” Esparza said. “If anything were to land on the White House lawn right now while we’re talking, someone would clean up 25:1.”