Wales Can Add to Bookies’ Woes by Repeating Leicester Upset

  • Euro 2016 win for Welsh would cost industry 20 million pounds
  • ‘We’re beginning to get a little sweaty on this’: Ladbrokes

Less than two months after Leicester City’s shock Premier League victory cost U.K. oddsmakers more than 20 million pounds ($26 million), the industry is braced for a similar dose of soccer-induced pain.

Betting firms face similar liabilities should another long shot, Wales, lift the European Championship trophy in Paris on Sunday. Available at odds of 80-1 before the tournament started, Wales have attracted wagers not just in their own country, but from across the U.K., according to David Stevens, a spokesman for the Coral betting chain.

Wales score against Slovakia in Euro 2016.

Photographer: Ian Walton/Getty Images

“It would be by far our worst result,” Stevens said ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final with Portugal, for which Wales are getting 10-3 odds to win in regulation time. “We are talking in excess of a 20 million-pound payout for the industry were they to go and win the thing.”

Such an outcome would provide more misfortune for the bookies, who already this year have had to cope with Leicester’s heroics, their worst-ever Cheltenham horse-racing festival, higher gaming duties and tighter regulation. Shares of William Hill Plc, the U.K.’s biggest bookmaker, fell to a four-year low of 246.9 pence on Wednesday, also hurt by concern over reduced consumer spending in the wake of Britain’s vote to quit the European Union.

“Like everyone else, we have loved the Welsh story, but we’re beginning to get a little sweaty on this now,” said David Williams, a spokesman for betting firm Ladbrokes Plc, which took three bets for Wales to win at 500-1 odds during the qualifying stages of the tournament.

Ladbrokes alone has liabilities of 2.5 million pounds on Wales winning the tournament, which Williams said could rise to as much as 4 million pounds were the team to go all the way to the final. Ladbrokes has 133 betting shops in the principality, while William Hill has 67 and stands to pay out almost 2 million pounds in the event of a Welsh triumph, according to spokesman Joe Crilly.

Yet victory for Wales would be a much smaller blow to bookmakers than an England win would have been. England lifting the trophy represented the biggest single risk to profit this year, Ladbrokes Chief Executive Officer Jim Mullen said in May. In the end, the team failed to even make the quarter finals, losing to Iceland in the last 16.

One Ladbrokes client will be feeling particularly nervous when tonight’s game gets underway. The digital customer from Wales placed a 1,000-pound wager at odds of 80-1 before a ball was kicked, implying a potential return of 81,000 pounds.

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