Are early pay-outs so bad for bookmakers?

Shock horror or mock horror for Paddy Power?
Shock horror or mock horror for Paddy Power?

I’ve given up on predicting where the Premier League title’s going to go, because every time it looks like a done deal, the leaders go and fuck it all up again.

Yesterday Manchester United scraped a jammy last-gasp win against Manchester City and odds-on title favourites Chelsea then proceeded to lose to Tottenham later in the day. So the four-point lead the Blues held over United on Saturday morning is now just the one – while Arsenal are still six back after their own sloppy defeat to Wigan. Worse news for the wobbly west Londoners is that they will have to face the aerial bombardment of Stoke City next weekend without their captain John Terry, who was sent off at White Hart Lane.

It’s been such a weird football season that whoever wins it this year will be the least deserving champions in living memory. This title race has seen more twists and turns than the Kama Sutra but come May, the Irish bookmakers will have you believe that it is they who will really be fucked, as Paddy Power and have already paid out early on Chelsea winning their fourth title. Paddy Power’s pay-out will cost them £500,000 cock-up if United win the title, and yesterday Green Square were forced to cut the Red Devils’ odds and push Chelsea’s price from 1/7 to 8/13 – a gargantuan leap.

“I’m guessing it’s far too late to say our early payout on Chelsea was a belated April Fools joke?” said appropriately-named Paddy Power spokesman Paddy Power. “It looks like the football Gods are conspiring to teach us a very expensive lesson.” Quite how expensive the lesson is up for debate, though, as the publicity generated may even make a Chelsea capitulation a worthwhile PR exercise.

The punter loves a bookie that is prepared to pay out before the title die has been cast and Paddy Power has previous in this respect. Four years ago the bookie paid out on Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea winning the league as early as September after the London club raced into a commanding lead. On that occasion they were right, but in 2003 they got it wrong when they paid out on Arsenal in early March, only for the Gunners to throw away a 12-point lead and hand the title to United.

So if paying out early was that bad for business, they simply wouldn’t do it again. Loss leaders are common practice in this industry and if the Grand National results and this latest football development had been so crushing for margins, Paddy Power wouldn’t be looking to buy up half of South London, would they? For the latest title odds click here.