In an effort to separate itself from the competition, U.K.-based bookmaker Bet365 last week began offering the "lay" option on horses and British football teams.
The laying option, available through Bet365's betting shops, phone service and Internet site (www.Bet365.com), brings a popular betting option on exchanges to the world of fixed-odds bookmaking.
Punters who lay a horse or football team essentially are betting on their choice to lose instead of to win. The option is one of the main reasons betting exchanges have soared in popularity over the last two years.
"Not everyone has an exchange account," Bet365 spokesperson Nigel Ridgway said. "There still are a lot of punters who are skeptical of the exchanges and realize racing is losing a lot of revenue from them."
Ridgway said the lay option was a sudden addition to the Bet365 family. He said Fred Done, an independent British bookmaker with a small chain of betting shops and a telephone service, started to offer the option of laying Premiere League football teams a few weeks ago.
Ridgway added that Bet365 realized there were limitations to the Done system and decided it was worth the effort to create a similar system for their fixed-odds customers.
"They just had football and they didn't offer multiple bets," he said. "We expect to expand to other sports in the coming weeks once we get all the kinks out of the system."
In the early going, Bet365 is only offering odds to lose on horses priced 5-1 or less in the early-morning races.
The offering proved to be a quick success for the bookmaker when a horse backed heavily to lose won its heat during the early card at Ascott.
"Considering it was meant to be low key we are quite pleased with the business we have seen," Steve Freeth of Bet365 said. "We are just dipping our toes in the water. Punters can mix horses and football teams in multiples and mix back and lay bets on them as long as they are not related, so a multiple can only include one horse in any race."
Ridgway said that implementing the new option so quickly was a testament to the technology crew at Bet 365.
"Our guys downstairs really did a tremendous job on this project," he said. "We are encouraged with the start so far, but we really don't expect it to catch on straight away. It will get bigger and gain steam though as more and more people know about it and the word spreads."
In addition to the laying option, Bet365 also introduced a "Be The Bookie" button on its Web site that allows punters to lay multiple losers.
A special set of rules is in place for layers. Lay prices will be available on the Internet site starting at 9 a.m., but betting shops will only take the lay bets starting at 11 a.m. and stop accepting them as soon as first card is transmitted on TV. Fluctuating prices will be offered throughout the day on the Web site, Freeth said.
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