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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Bookies bet on billion-pound WC

Bookies bet on billion-pound WC

May 29, 2006 15:37 IST

England's inspirational striker is still injured less than two weeks before the World Cup begins and has been ruled out of the opening stages of the tournament.

The England coach, on his last assignment before he steps down, has called up a 17-year-old he has never seen play.

His assistant, who guided his club side to a mediocre 14th place in the Premier League with a 7-0 drubbing along the way, has been hailed as the best English manager around and appointed the next national boss.

With this amount of uncertainty, predicting England's fortunes is not easy, and that means there is a lot of money to be made.

Up to one billion pounds is expected to be placed through British bookmakers on the June 9 to July 9 World Cup in Germany, with bets ranging from who will win the Golden Boot, to the number of corners to be taken in a game and what haircut captain David Beckham will display.

Betting in Britain has always been popular but the 2001 abolition of tax for the gambler and the growth of online betting sites has resulted in an increase in annual turnover from seven billion pounds in 2000 to some 50 billion pounds, analysts say.

The World Cup is the highlight.

"Britain is the world centre for bookmaking and the world's biggest betting exchanges are based in Britain, that's where most of the money on the World Cup will be spent," Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, a senior gambling adviser to the British government, told Reuters in an interview.


Although the majority of betting in Britain still takes place in high street bookmakers, more and more people are opting to bet via the internet, over the telephone or through interactive television.

Access to satellite and cable television carrying live sport also allows people to bet, throughout a game, from their own home.

"People now bet, sat at home, during the match watching it on TV," said Vaughan Williams from Nottingham Trent University.

"They used to bet just once before the match but now they can bet during it and there are so many things to bet on."

Graham Sharpe, media spokesman for the William Hill bookmakers, said betting had also become more popular in recent years due to the variety of events people could put a wager on.

"People who have never before had an interest in who wins the 2.30 at Sandown (race course) can now bet on reality TV and football," he said.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is a major doubt to play any part for Sven-Goran Eriksson's team with a broken foot and the uncertainty has been reflected in the number of bets placed in recent weeks.

England still hope the 20-year-old might be available for the later stages of the tournament but he is odds-on to miss the whole thing according to William Hill.

The surprise presence of Arsenal striker Theo Walcott, who has yet to make his Premier League debut, has already made up for Rooney's injury as far as the bookmakers are concerned.

"We've been taking bets from everything from Theo Walcott taking his driving test to winning the Golden Boot," Sharpe said. "He is attracting just as much interest as we would have expected Rooney to do."


Vaughan Williams says betting is now an integral part of the leisure experience in Britain, with punters making more money than ever before due to the removal of tax and the competitive odds set by rival bookmakers.

Ladbrokes, another British bookmaker, says it handles more than one million bets a day in its shops and has two million registered online customers in more than 200 countries who are offered bets in 18 currencies.

Critics say the continual growth of betting is worrying, however, not just for the individual but for the sport as well.

The ability to continually place bets throughout a game increases the chance of gamblers running up bigger debts as they chase a winning result.

On a larger scale, football's world governing body FIFA has been forced to set up a new company to detect suspect betting patterns in response to a betting scandal that broke in Germany last year.

Referee Robert Hoyzer was found guilty of fixing matches in a two-million-euro ($2.58-million) betting fraud case which has embarrassed the World Cup hosts.

Vaughan Williams said the game was now more transparent than ever before.

"Everything you do now is monitored," he said. "They know where you bet, how much you bet. Before, when it was just in a shop it could never be controlled.

"(Cheating) was there before, you just didn't know about it."

Kate Holton
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