May 11, 2017

Gambling: The Bookmaker

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Most sports provide means for betting, even cricket, that gentle pastime of languorous summers.

At many big matches in England since 1970, a discreet bookmaker’s office has quoted odds during play on batsmen scoring centuries, or on the time of the winning hit or anything else suitable.

Betting on golf is big business at American tournaments, and in 1972 a betting marquee appeared for the first time on a British course, at Turnberry.

The bookmakers were delighted with the spectator’s response, but the golfing establishments views betting with wariness.

A method for betting on American football and basketball has been devised by American bookmakers. The bookmakers estimates the likely difference in points between the two sides; this is then added to the weaker team’s actual score for the purposes of betting.

For instance, the bookmaker might quote Team A a 10-point favorite over Team B. This means that bettors on Team A win if their team wins by more than 10 points; bettors on Team B win if their team is beaten by fewer than 10 points.

If the difference is exactly 10 points, the bet is off. Bookmakers will take bets on either team, but both teams will be odds-on, either 6-5 or 11-10 according to the bookmaker and the standing of the client.

Doubles and trebles are accepted and known as ‘parlays’. A bookmaker offering odds of 5-6 for the single will offer 12-5 for a two-team parlay and a 5-1 for a three-team parlay.

Baseball bets are made in more conventional fashion with odds quoted about each team. The odds might be quoted thus: ‘1:80-1:140. Yankees’ favorites’. This means that bettors on Yankees must lay 180 units to win 100; backers of the opponents will win 140 units for 100.

On this example, the advantage to the bookmaker is nearly 6 percent.

The same odds might be quoted by some bookmakers as ‘9-7 Yankees’ favorites’, meaning the Yankees are 9-5 om, and the opposition 7-5 against.

Boxing has always been popular with gamblers, perhaps because it is such a physical sport. Repressed aggressive instincts might lead some people to find both boxing and gambling attractive.

Because there has always been a feeling that fights are frequently crooked or fixed, bookmakers are not over-anxious to bet on them, and when they do they usually want a good percentage.

Most betting is therefore private. In the days of prize fighting, champions were sponsored by the aristocracy and betting was high. In the eighteenth century, the Duke of Cumberland sponsored John Broughton, who has a commemorative stone in Westminster Abbey, and lost 50,000 pounds when Broughton was beaten in his last fight.

World title fights are the biggest attractions for gamblers. There are often surprises, and George foreman was a 5-2 underdog when knocking out Joe Frazier for the heavyweight championship in 1973.

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