England’s Back-to-Back Wins Provoke Record World Cup Betting Rampage Followed by Media Backlash

Posted on: June 27, 2018, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: June 28, 2018, 08:34h.

England’s unusually good start to the World Cup has prompted a patriotic betting bonanza in the UK, the world’s biggest regulated sports betting market.

World Cup betting
UK bookies stand to lose a bundle on World Cup Betting if England wins, although they’ve had 50 years to save for that unlikely eventuality. The industry is expecting $2.5 billion to be wagered this year on the tournament, most of it patriotically motivated. (Image: Getty)

Betting industry figures seen by The Times newspaper this week suggest up to $2.5 billion could be wagered on the tournament — that’s around 50 percent more than the UK bet during Brazil 2014.

Which means the team’s 6-1 demolition of Panama on Sunday will be making the bookies sweat.

“The England team deserve[s] to be knighted for their services to the betting industry,” Graham Sharpe, William Hill’s then PR guru, told The Guardian during the last World Cup. “They’ve enabled us to put aside a few quid for when the dreaded day comes and they do win the World Cup.”

Let’s hope they have, because when you consider that most of that $2.5 billion will be lumped on England, it would be a calamity for UK bookmakers if England takes home the World Cup in Russia.

‘Uncontrolled Social Experiment’

Meanwhile, this orgy of sports betting has provoked a predictable media backlash over the deluge of gambling TV spots — even though half the games are being broadcast exclusively by the BBC, which carries no advertising of any kind whatsoever.

The Times noted that around a fifth of spots on ITV — the only commercial channel showing games in the UK — advertise gambling companies, “with many encouraging viewers to bet during matches on their smartphones,” as if this sort of thing hasn’t been going on for years.

But a report by the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, an independent committee that advises the UK Gambling Commission, warned that gambling advertising on television and social media amounted to an “uncontrolled social experiment on today’s youth” that was “normalizing” gambling for children.

Watson’s Free Ticket

One of the most vocal critics of betting advertising — and of the industry in general — is the deputy opposition leader Tom Watson. The Labour MP for West Bromwich East has described gambling as Britain’s “hidden epidemic”

But in a piece this week headlined “Tom Watson’s Gambling Hypocrisy,” The Spectator notes that Watson himself has been enjoying the hospitality of bookmakers recently, namely Sky Betting and Gaming.

The online gambling giant treated Watson to four tickets to Championship play off final at Wembley Stadium last month, worth around £400. UK MPs are required, by law, to declare all gifts and hospitality worth more than £300.

Why the bookies are wasting money on a politician so hellbent on their destruction is a mystery, but then again, if England wins the World Cup they may need all the help they can get.