Bookmakers worldwide have reported increased betting on the Cricket World Cup, but most say it isn't a "major" event. Nevertheless CWC betting has carved a nice niche for itself in the interactive gaming industry.
Leading person-to-person betting site Betfair.com has experienced the CWC push firsthand.
"There just isn't the demand from bettors on it in Europe like there is with the football World Cup," said Betfair.com communications director Mark Davies. "That isn't to say that there is no demand. It is still a very popular event for bettors, especially among our Indian and Pakistani customers."
Betfair has no marketing or commercial presence in either India or Pakistan, but many natives of the region that have relocated to either to Europe have turned to the site to get their betting fix.
Similarly Sportingbet.com has seen accounts increase from Indian and Pakistani nationals now living in Europe, according to Executive Vice Chairman Mark Blandford.
If the bookmakers were looking for a darling in the CWC, they got it in Kenya. The African nation started the 14-team field as a 500-1 long shot to leave South Africa as World Champions. After going 4-2 in pool play, Kenya advanced to the Super Six round and is one match away from facing world power Australia in the championship match. Kenya faces India on Thursday in the semifinals. The championship match is slated for Sunday.
Blandford and Davies both said that as is true in football's World Cup, punters love to lay action on underdogs when they start to make their way through the tournament.
Davies said Kenya's success in the tournament hasn't translated into a flux of new account holders from east Africa, but that really wasn't expected.
"I don't know what the numbers are there but I am sure the percentage of households that have Internet in Kenya is small," he said. "Not to mention having to educate the residents on the whole concept of betting online and a betting exchange."
Betfair doesn't market in Australia either, but the success of the Aussie team steamrolling the competition, going 11-0 so far in the tournament, coupled with an enormous amount of media attention on betting exchanges has been a boon.
"It has been off of the charts," Davies said, referring to the amount of both new account holders from Australia as well as the amount of action they are putting down on the CWC.
Davies said the media frenzy has turned out to be more valuable than any marketing campaign.
"The media just can't get enough of us," he said.
The genre of betting that has seen the biggest boost during the tournament is live in-game betting, which according to Blandford, lends itself perfectly to cricket matches. The pace of cricket, he said, is ideal for in-game betting; the down time from batsman to batsman allows for a bevy of betting options for punters.
Sportingbet's sister site, SportingOdds.com, Blandford said, has seen a huge increase in its live betting through the CWC.
"Generally the business prior to matches has been light," he said. "Our in-running service on SportingOdds.com has come to life when an underdog makes a good start to a match and the betting becomes each of two (more even)."
SportingOdds has created some innovative markets for bettors, and the unique bets have helped increase turnover.
Among some of the more popular wagers for the CWC are: total runs in the first 15 overs, match handicap +? runs/ +?; wickets; batsmen scoring most runs; match bets; and next man out.
Operators are hoping cricket's vitalization of in-game betting will carry over to other sports. Ed Pownall, spokesperson for Blue Square Interactive Development, a company that specializes in creating sports betting delivery systems, said in-game betting is gaining in popularity as Interactive TV gains a deeper penetration throughout Europe.
"Those that have an account are finding it so easy and convenient to just punt right through the remote," he said. "We are seeing an increase, too, on the Internet as more and more content sites allow users to follow the developments of the game right on their desktops. But in terms of seamless integration and ease of use, interactive TV is still the best platform for the in-game betting."
With the exception of Kenya's surprise run through the field, the favorites had their way in the tournament. That means no big payouts for bookmakers, but both Blandford and Davies said the event was on schedule to meet expectations set by both SportingBet.com and Betfair.com respectively.
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