2010: a bumper year for the sports bookmakers

The first £1bn World Cup?
The first £1bn World Cup?

2010 will be a bumper year for the sports bookmakers. In addition to the usual annual sporting events and the additional fillip of the Ryder Cup, there is no question that the World Cup will dominate the year’s betting like never before, with the £1 billion barrier looking certain to be broken for the first time.

“Every four years the World Cup sets new betting records and with the open nature of this tournament and the enormous hype building up around it, that £1bn barrier looks certain to be smashed for the first time,” claims William Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.

Of course these PR mavericks always like to talk a good game but there is no question that this World Cup will be massive business for the bookmakers for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, internet streaming is beginning to take off to such an extent that people are able to follow events live on their computer screens like never before. This means that by hook or by crook we will all be able to keep a cheeky eye on what’s going on at work without the boss knowing. And in most cases the boss will be doing the self same thing.

Secondly, live betting is becoming big business for the online bookies who are offering all sorts of in-running events on individual football matches. Bet365 have led the way in this field and they will doubtless introduce even more ground-breaking bets people can bet on in real time.

Thirdly, the fact that the event is taking place in South Africa is excellent news for the European market, which often suffers when the competition moves away from the continent. But instead of matches being played at an anti-social hour, there will be none of the 7.30am kick-off times that were the scourge of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Transvaal local time is only two hours ahead of GMT and one ahead of CET – all of which will leave the bookies in this part of the world rubbing their hands in anticipation. Especially Victor Chandler, who have been granted a licence to operate in South Africa where by next May anticipation among the footy mad locals will have reached fever pitch.

Speaking from an English perspective, there will be a great deal of money staked on Fabio Capello’s men to clinch the trophy for only the second time, despite the fact they haven’t done so for 44 years.

Blind patriotism always gets in the way of common sense at these footballing majors, prompting unjustified short odds on England winning, and while foe once the Three Lions will be confident of going all the way, their dodgy defence and dearth of goalkeeping options will surely prove their undoing.

“For punters an England triumph would be the dream outcome,” adds Sharpe. “But for bookies that would be a multi-million pound nightmare – the worst result since Frankie Dettori nearly bankrupted the industry by riding all seven winners in one day at Ascot.

“We want to see England go very close without winning, in fact beaten in the final on a penalty shoot-out, which we make a 90/1 chance, would do us very nicely.”

England are 11/2 joint second favourites alongside Brazil for overall glory, with Spain the market leaders at 9/2 but shrewd footballing minds will be looking to lay Capello’s men, and back Brazil, who have course and distance, in terms of a fine World Cup pedigree and, more importantly, a Confederations Cup victory in South Africa last summer. France, at 16/1 are extremely good value for an each way bet.

Either way, it’ll be the bookies laughing all the way to the bank.