Bookies look forward to a World Cup winner next summer

The gambling industry looks set to net millions of pounds of profits from this summer's football World Cup in France, according to leading bookies. Andrew Yates reports on an imminent betting bonanza.

Ladbroke, the UK's largest bookmaker, estimates that punters will bet a total of pounds 100m on the tournament. Stanley Leisure, the casino and betting shop group, yesterday backed up the industry's buoyant forecasts by predicted that it alone would make more than pounds 3m in extra sales.

Nick Batram, leisure analyst at Greig Middleton, said: "More and more people are betting on football matches. This World Cup is likely to be the best ever for the betting industry."

Stanley revealed it had a pounds 40m war chest and is eyeing up more betting shop acquisitions in the UK. It is also planning to expand overseas by opening a casino in Cyprus and growing its betting business from an initial trial in Italy. The group could look to open more bookmakers at airports after launching its first site in Jersey.

Stanley confirmed that the Government was unlikely to allow it to introduce more slot machines at its casinos for the next 12 months at least. However it was confident that some minor gambling reforms such as allowing casinos to advertise in a limited way, should come about this year, despite growing doubts from other industry chiefs.

Stanley announced a 37 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 10.1m for the six months to October despite the fact that the industry lost a day's racing in September due to the death of Princess Diana, which cost the group pounds 500,000.

Stanley yesterday made Brazil favourites for the World Cup, quoting odds of 11-4, followed by France at 11-2 and Germany at 13-2. England is only fourth in the betting at 7-1 and Scotland is rated a rank outsider at 100-1.

Investment column, page 26