WORLD CUP fever gives the betting industry a gilt-edged opportunity to put recent negative publicity behind it with a celebration of all that’s good about having a fun bet on the tournament.
Staged in Russia from June 14 through to July 15, there are 32 runners and a wide open market headed, as usual, by 9-2 favourites Brazil.
John Quinn, William Hill’s customer relations manager, says the last thing that anyone wants is a dispute. “For shop punters, this is most likely to occur if no price is marked on the bet or the instructions are not clear. So always ensure you take the current odds and that your instructions are clear.”
Ron Hearn, the reigning Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year, agrees. From his JenningsBet office in Charlton, he says: “The message to staff is to ensure there is a price on every bet. It might take a few seconds longer, but it identifies what the customer actually wants.”
The rule of thumb within the industry is that if there is no clear instruction given or price taken, the bet will be deemed to be on the next 90 minutes play involving that team. Online or shop coupons don’t have this issue, it’s the hand-written bets on simple slips which can cause problems.
Every 90 minutes draw in the latter stages (i.e. with extra time and penalties ahead) produces subsequent pandemonium in the shops, even though draws are almost always the most profitable result for bookmakers!
Of course the outright World Cup winner market is the key glamour one and even though Brazil will always attract support from the man in the street, the professionals (both bookmakers and serious punters) are set to take them on, along with the likes of Argentina, Germany, England and especially the hosts, on the basis of the Russians having a woeful defence.
Biggest liabilities at William Hill as kick-off loomed were Top Goalscorer: Griezmann (France) and Winner/Top Goalscorer double: Brazil and Neymar.
With match times suiting British betting shop hours (generally games start at 1pm, 3 or 4pm and 7pm, the earliest is one game at 11am (France v Australia on June 16), latest 8pm (Croatia v Nigeria the same day).
Hearn adds: “Everyone is excited, our shop will be decorated with bunting and flags and, while we’d like to adopt England as ‘ours’, realistically to give an interest after the quarter-finals we will probably go with the French. For me, that’s an upcoming side.”
He expects plenty of banter from a range of customers that include Russians, Poles and Nigerians. “Unfortunately they will all fancy their chances if they come up against England!”
Patriotic punters will still steam in and, despite the liability issue, bookmakers won't be too worried so the Three Lions may yet drift. JenningsBet have had a bit of fun of offering £1,966 to a £100 bet on England (i.e. a return £2,066 - other stakes settled proportionately).
“But best of all,” Hearn adds, “betting shops offer a safe environment for customers to enjoy every game, chatting and debating it with others.”
England boasts a young and enthusiastic squad, but you would be taking under the true odds about them which are surely bigger.
Jeevan Jeyaratnam, who at the last World Cup ran the data feed and odds compilation business at Super Soccer, is now Head of Compilation at Abelson Odds, the pricing specialist arm of Abelson Info.
He predicts that there could be “an increase in cards at this tournament thanks to the extra ‘eyes’ available from the Moscow-based VAR (Video Assistant Referee)” and warns that “retrospective disciplinary issues, as a result of a VAR ruling at half-time or, after full-time, could cause some issues with card markets. Punters are encouraged to check firms’ rules before wagering. Most operators’ markets end at 90 minutes, cards awarded after would not count.”
He advises to “always check the basic market rules when having a wager,” and says “the classic football tournament mistake is to mix up the official FIFA Golden Boot market with the Top Tournament Goalscorer market that most bookies use. The Golden Boot uses a count-back method, including assists, and then minutes played, to resolve tie-breaks. But the Top Tournament Goalscorer will use dead-heat rules if necessary.”
Special offers are everywhere e.g. bet365 - go two goals ahead and you get paid out in full about single bets, a 0-0 bore-draw gives a bet365 refund on correct score, first/last/anytime scorer, half-time/full time and scorecast markets.
Betfred’s 8-1 England to go out on penalties is set to be popular, another to catch the eye is the 28-1 from Ladbrokes for Uruguay to be top scoring team given a helpful opening group. But Jeyaratnam rates as the best early value to be with Star Sports: “They are offering a monster promotion to celebrate the launch of their new website. You simply sign-up and bet £20, or more, on their outright market. If Germany then win the tournament they will pay you £250, if they do it via a shoot-out they will give you £500. You’re effectively getting a £50 free cash bet (£100 if won on pens) at their 4-1 quote!”
William Hill report that the their most popular World Cup special is for every team to receive at least one card, be awarded at least one corner and score at least one goal in the tournament. The odds are 12-1 and basically each team has a minimum of three matches to achieve this. Hills pray that one team will let the punters down!
Key dos and don’ts
90 minutes play
The vast majority of markets on individual matches are settled on the outcome prior to the end of normal time, i.e. 90 minutes play and ‘injury’ time. For example, match result, correct score, first goalscorer, both teams to score etc. Injury time is included but not extra time. This issue only arises in the knockout stages when extra time and penalty shootouts can determine the result.
To qualify or to win the trophy
In the knockout stages customers can bet on a team to qualify for the next round or the match result. Likewise in the final, the match result or to lift the trophy. If a price is not taken which determines the intention then bets placed with the vast majority of high street bookmakers default to the match result. This is because the odds for this incorporate the eventuality of a draw and are therefore more attractive than the outright odds. Betting shop customers intending the outright result must stipulate this when placing their bet if written on a standard betting slip.
A related bet is when one part of the bet has a direct influence on the outcome of another part of the bet. For example one cannot generally combine a half time/full time result with a first goalscorer. The reason being that the multiplied odds for each selection do not reflect the probability of the bet succeeding. In this example if one selected draw half time, England full time with Kane first goalscorer then if Kane scores first it increases the chance of England winning. There will be other situations when bookmakers allow a related combination to be placed but they will offer special odds that takes the related element into account. For example, Brazil to win the trophy and Neymar top scorer.
If the player comes on at any time before the first goal is scored your bet stands. So you are at a disadvantage if your selection is not in the starting line up as they have less time on the pitch and therefore fewer opportunities to score. Own goals do not count in bets placed before a match starts but may count for in-play betting. Extra time does not count.
The majority of bookmakers state bets stand if the selection takes any part in the match. It is worth checking the starting line up before placing a bet on this market because otherwise you will be on a poor value bet if your selection only plays part of the match as the odds remain the same. Extra time does not count.
In the World Cup cards can be issued retrospectively following a VAR review at half time. Check with your bookmaker whether they will count these. Cards issued after normal time through VAR or for any other reason do not count. Only cards issued to active players on the field of play count. If a player receives two yellows followed by a red the majority of bookmakers will count this as two cards not three. Extra time does not count.
Check whether the bet is corners awarded or corners taken. Re-taken corners only count once. Extra time does not count.
Golden Boot/Tournament top scorer
The Golden Boot involves other elements such as assists and not just goals.
Tournament top scorer is strictly goals so dead heat rules apply. Most bookmakers will only offer odds on tournament top scorer as that is a simpler format for customers and also allows them to price up the players more accurately.
Incorrect odds and fluctuating odds
All bookmakers have a rule that allows them to correct obvious errors in the issuing of odds. Also odds are subject to fluctuation and can go higher or lower depending on customer demand and bookmaker liabilities.
Million pound offers
There are quite a number of these. No harm as a bit of fun but they (obviously) are unlikely winners. William Hill are offering a free bet called the Perfect Hat-trick. To qualify a customer has to spend a minimum of £5 on any World Cup market in one of their shops. The bet requires the customer to predict the correct number of goals, corners and cards in a set of three matches. The prize for doing so is £1m and every entry is entered into a daily match day draw for a £5,000 prize - a more realistic target!
Another free £1m shot comes from Coral (online and mobile) based on answering ten questions of increasing difficulty that do get you thinking.
Jeyaratnam says that he admires the ingenuity of BetVictor “for combining this year’s bet-building craze (in their case, monikered #PriceItUp) and a big World Cup competition. They are offering a £1m prize (daily £5k prizes also available) for the biggest winning World Cup bet.” He rates this “as a fantastic bit of marketing and they will no doubt takes stacks of extremely unlikely, high-margined #PriceItUp bets!”
A dispute is most likely to occur if no price is marked on the bet or the instructions are not clear. So punters - always ensure you take the current odds and your instructions are clear. Bookmakers – you may understand what you mean by a particular betting market but make sure it is equally clear to your customers.
Jeeve’s prediction: Best value Uruguay
Jeevan Jeyaratnam has bet both France and Spain “as they look to have extremely good chances of knocking over both Brazil and Germany.
“Further down the order I have also bet Uruguay each-way, they have a good mix of young and experienced talent and with Cavani and Suarez up front they will be a constant threat. Though, perhaps the key to the side is the Atletico Madrid centre-back pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez. They will form a formidable base for the South American outfit. They have been drawn in Group A, in which they look an absolute certainty to top- even at 4/5, I’m getting heavily involved.
“Consequently, I am opposing the hosts Russia with a passion. I’m all over Saudi Arabia at +1.25 on the Asian Handicap in the opener and I have laid the Russians to qualify. It won’t take long before the crowd turn against the manager and his dour footballing style.”