Euro 2000 punters slaughtered us, say bookmakers

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The Independent Online

Shrewd betting on the unusually high number of winning favourites at Euro 2000 put a smile on the faces of many punters smiling, but left bookmakers counting heavy losses at the end of the three-week football tournament.

Shrewd betting on the unusually high number of winning favourites at Euro 2000 put a smile on the faces of many punters smiling, but left bookmakers counting heavy losses at the end of the three-week football tournament.

Ladbrokes, the UK's biggest chain of betting shops, said at its half-year results presentation yesterday that although Euro 2000 had attracted £20m in bets for the company, a run of bad luck had resulted in it booking up to £13m less than expected in profits from major sporting events.

Brian Wallace, deputy chief executive of Hilton Group, the hotel specialist which owns the Ladbrokes chain, said: "June proved to be something of a disaster for us, if not for our customers."

Three-quarters of the games played in Euro 2000 were won by the match favourite, compared to the more balanced 42 per cent in 1996, the last time the event happened.

Ladbrokes' losing streak was compounded when two of the country's most popular horse racing meetings - Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby - also ran to form, with five out of the top six races won by the favourites on Derby Day.

A spokesman for Bet Direct, the Poole-based bookmaker, was quoted as saying Euro 2000 had amounted to "as comprehensive a slaughter as one could possibly imagine".

Not only did the majority of punters correctly pick all four quarter-final winners. But there were a high number of novelty and combination bets, forcing bookmakers to cough up even more. The quarter-final spot-kick miss by Spain's Raul, which sent the country crashing out to the eventual champions France, was estimated to have cost the betting industry £5m.

But Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, said we should not feel too sorry for the bookmakers. "Occasionally, you do get the odd Tiger Woods or Frankie Dettori who wins everything. But the next time, someone else might come along and beat them. And besides, if punters didn't get the better end of the exchange from time to time, we would be out of a job."

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