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Bookmakers Cash In on World Cup Upsets, Bizarre Bets Pay Out

Published: June 26, 2014 (Issue # 1817)



  • The bookmaking industry in Russia is still relatively young but is already nearing Western proportions in terms of the amount of money people are prepared to bet.
    Photo: V. Baranov / Vedomosti

A $50,000 bet on your favorite player becoming the top scorer at the football World Cup in Brazil or a wager on the probability that Uruguay's Luis Suarez will sink his teeth into an opponent again may seem odd, but these are real bets in an industry where mathematics supplements sheer luck.

Russians may not be quite so foolhardy or inventive in their bets, but the World Cup is seriously stoking their interest, with up to 50 percent more people betting on football than before the tournament kicked off, Oleg Zhuravsky, president of the Russian Bookmakers Union, said Wednesday.

The World Cup has been packed full of surprises so far, with a number of the pre-tournament favorites being knocked out by outsiders, wiping conventional bets off the table and rewarding bold punters with hefty payouts.

Who would have thought that Robin van Persie's beautiful diving header that leveled the score between the Netherlands and Spain would open the floodgates for a 5-1 rout of the former world champions? Or that Italy and England would have to fly home even before the knockout stages get under way?

The unexpected successes and failures of teams in Brazil have directly affected the bets that thousands of people are making worldwide.

"One punter bet 50 euros [$68] that Costa Rica will win the tournament at odds of 2,500/1 and that bet is looking a lot less like a long shot now than it did at the start of the tournament," said Joe Crilly, a spokesman for William Hill, Britain's biggest bookmaker.

He also said that when the favorites are eliminated, it is always good news for the bookmakers due to the liabilities that are racked up in the buildup to the tournament.

"But we always say that it is best for us if some of these fancied sides get further in the tournament and then fall at the penultimate of final hurdle," Crilly said.

Zhuravsky said that profits gleaned as a result of favorites exiting the tournament early may be high in the short run, but that in the end the margin levels out.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russia’s most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkin’s, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontov’s short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library System’s website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Club’s weekly meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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