Follow the Favourite: How the Bookies Have Taken a Beating in the First Quarter of 2019

Bookmaker Losing MoneyThere was a fantastic article from the Racing Post team released this week that showed an incredibly high percentage of betting favourites have obliged in the first half of 2019.

That, and regulatory uncertainty regarding the FOBT machines, has led to some tough trading conditions for the bookmakers.

Who can forget of course Tiger Roll’s win as a 4/1 favourite at the Grand National last week; a victory which cost the bookies £250 million, according to some sources, which is a claim that has since been disputed.

Nevertheless, that triumph from Gordon Elliott’s horse has been the latest in a long-line of well backed favourites doing the business; much to the chagrin of the sportsbooks.

The Racing Post investigation found that in the first quarter of 2019 the number of Premier League favourites, i.e. teams who started league matches as the favourite, winning rose from 56.9% in the same period in 2018 to 61.6% just a year later.

And there was a similar trend for horse racing in Great Britain, with the number of winning favourites up to 37.6% from 34.8% in 2018.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the bookies, so there’s no need to get the violins out! The number of winning favourite’s among the Premier League’s ‘big six’ of Manchesters City and United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham fell marginally, as did the number of draws in the division: down from 24.3% to 16.8% in the first quarter of 2019.

And one of the most significant changes has been the number of favourites not taking the spoils in Irish racing: 39% obliged in the first three months of 2018, but just 35.1% did likewise this year.

The Favourite Game

Making a coherent explanation as to the reasons for this is difficult, as each case would need to be examined in comprehensive detail.

As well as the losses incurred at the Grand National, it is also believed that the bookmakers took something of a hit at the Cheltenham Festival as well. While results – favourites and outsiders winning – were about even, it’s thought that the free bets and welcome bonuses they offered ahead of the meeting probably pushed them into the red.

Indeed, the Festival looked set to be a complete washout for the bookies, but a stellar Gold Cup day from their perspective – with 12/1, 20/1, 50/1 and 66/1 winners – meant they were able to recoup some of their losses.

If you have a morbid fascination for the bookmakers losing money, there’s a really interesting read over on the Pinnacle blog about the results which have cost the firm the most money in recent years.

Most emanate from when they got their odds ‘wrong’, with savvy punters backing the underdog. At Euro 2016, for instance, lots of punters piled into the 11/4 about Italy beating Spain in the Round of 16. The Italians subsequent victory was described as the worst day in Pinnacle’s history, with losses of seven figures quoted.

  1. Italy vs. Spain – 2016 Euros
  2. France vs. Switzerland – 2016 Euros
  3. Belgium vs. England – 2018 World Cup
  4. Spain vs. Netherlands – 2014 World Cup
  5. South Korea vs. Algeria – 2014 World Cup

Typically, however, we know that the bookies hate it when the favourites prosper; particularly those that have been well backed. It’s why a few are feeling a bit tender after a tough opening quarter of the year.