A Great World Cup So Far for Online Bookmakers

5 November 2003

The top eight teams in the 20-team 2003 Rugby World Cup tournament had no trouble advancing to the quarterfinal stage, which starts in a few days.

" The levels of business have pleasantly surprised us."
- Mark Blandford

A strong performance by the favorites usually means sports books will take a hit, but online bookmakers have bucked the trend. The cyber sports books are profiting with hopes of continued success into the Nov. 22 championship match in Sydney.

Although favorites like New Zealand, South Africa, England and Australia rolled into the quarterfinal stage, the pool play portion of the tournament wasn't without its share of close games and surprise runs, which fueled betting.

Tournament betting at U.K.-based Sportingbet has surpassed expectations, which Executive Vice Chairman Mark Blandford said is proof that Australian punters are starting to wager more on sports instead of just horseracing.

Despite leading P2P exchange Betfair's tussle with Australian regulators, the site has taken an enormous amount of action on the event from both the British and Australian punters.

One of the advantages of dealing with a betting exchange revealed itself during the early-round games when in-running odds moved as some of the favorite teams struggled to win matches.

"England drifted from 1.01 to 1.3 when they were having troubles against Samoa and New Zealand went from 1.01 to 1.2 when struggling against Wales--matches where the unexpected happens and fluctuations occur will always boost turnover," explained Betfair's Tony Calvin.

Leading Australian bookmakers Bet Corp. also exceeded its projected RWC turnover, according to the groups CFO, Simon Smith.

"We went over AU$1 million in turnover during the pool phases and we expect that figure to double now that we are into the quarterfinals," Smith said.

Trading volume at Betfair, meanwhile, has quadrupled the AU$1 million mark in individual matches.

Calvin said the exchange traded more than £2.4 (AU$5.7 million) in bets for the England/South Africa contest alone. The Australia/Argentina match was another big one, with £2 million (AU$4.7 million) changing hands.

Additionally, nearly £5 million has been matched at Betfair on the outright winners so far, and Calvin expects those numbers to skyrocket during the quarterfinals.

Blandford was worried initially that the time difference between Australia and England would lower the amount of U.K. punters betting on the tournament

"The levels of business have pleasantly surprised us," Blandford said. "We feared the early kick-off times would be discouraging for our U.K. customers, but we are getting a lot of turnover from our U.K. bettors."

Bet Corp. has taken advantage of the event being held in its own backyard, and Smith said the Australian betting public has responded.

"This is the biggest sporting event in Australia this year, and for it to happen in conjunction with the Melbourne Cup, which was run earlier this week, has been great for the betting public and bookmakers alike," Smith said. "All the games have been sell-outs and punters are getting behind it more than anyone anticipated."

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at kevin@igamingnews.com.