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World Cup on course to be first event in history with £1bn in British bets alone


By Nick Harris

7 June 2010

The World Cup, which starts on Friday and will have a huge economic impact in countries far outside the host nation South Africa, will be the biggest event in British sports betting history, bookmakers said yesterday.

“The World Cup will smash all gambling records, becoming the first sporting event to produce a £1bn-plus betting turnover,” said Graham Sharpe of William Hill. Sharpe’s estimate is for British-based bookmakers only.

The previous most lucrative betting event was the 2006 World Cup, which Sharpe says involved turnover of “towards £1bn, but below £1bn. Hopefully this time we’re being conservative in our estimates and it could be much more than £1bn.”

William Hill – indeed the industry as a whole – would benefit from England going a long way, but ultimately losing. “I’d say we’re really in an ‘anyone but England’ situation [in terms of biggest margins],” Sharpe said.

Patriotic punters in England swell bookmakers’ coffers by betting on England, generally around 15-2 to win the Cup. England are fourth favourites behind Spain, Brazil and Argentina. The longer England stay in, the more money is bet on them, and the more the bookies will profit as long as they eventually lose.

Hills says one of their customers flew to London purely to place a bet of $85,000 (£59,000) on a World Cup accumulative wager involving six countries either to qualify or not to qualify from the group stages of the tournament. For the bet to win, Argentina, Germany and Italy must all qualify from the group stages while Algeria, Japan and Honduras fail to do so. A winning outcome would net the punter £139,000.

Hill have also taken a £10,000 bet on Italy winning the World Cup from a Scottish client in Glasgow. “The bet was placed over the telephone at odds of 16-1,” Sharpe said.

Another William Hill client, from Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, has staked an £8,824 double on Brazil winning the World Cup this year and in 2014 at odds of 16/1, which will win him £150,008 if it comes off. The same punter also staked a £5,173 double on Argentina to win this year and Brazil to win in 2014, at odds of 28-1, which would return £150,017.


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