Sportsbet to lose at least $5.2 million thanks to election bungle
By Anthony Colangelo
Sportsbet will lose at least $5.2 million thanks to its decision to pay out early on Bill Shorten winning Saturday’s federal election as large bookmakers again had to admit they had misread the political landscape.
The betting company paid out on Mr Shorten becoming prime minister two days before Australians went to the polls, where voters surprisingly chose to re-elect Scott Morrison’s Coalition government. Sportsbet said on Thursday Mr Shorten was at Winx-like odds of $1.16 to win.
“We paid out $1.3 million early to punters who backed Labor early, but on top of that we obviously have a massive payout on the Coalition which will be at least three times that figure,” Sportsbet spokesman Richard Hummerston told The Age and SMH.
“Seventy per cent of the cash staked before the early payout had come for Labor, our punters had called the election early. We thought we’d simply give them their cash early.”
Despite the massive loss, Sportsbet had not lost its humour when asked if it regretted the decision to pay out early. Its markets predicted Labor would win 82 seats and the Coalition 63.
“The quality of toilet paper and stationery will need to be significantly decreased at the Sportsbet offices to cover these costs and we can only keep the heaters on for two hours a day, but in the end, we have a result where most of our punters on a market are winners,” Mr Hummerston said.
“You don’t see that very often in bookmaking.”
“We might find it hard to convince the punters in the next election that the betting markets are an excellent guide for election results.”
Mr Hummerston had expressed more confidence in comments before the poll.
“Punters rarely get it wrong on elections,” he said at the time.
“Seven of every 10 bets on the election are on Labor. They’re supremely confident we will be paying out on Saturday, so we have decided to pay them early.”
TAB’s Gerard Daffy said the betting turnover on the total result was a record for a federal election while there was also strong interest in individual seats particularly Warringah.
“While the biggest individual bets with us were on Bill Shorten’s ALP, we had a steady stream of smaller bets for the Coalition at longer odds and the punters ended up winning the day on the election,” he said.
He also acknowledged that betting houses have had a rough run on picking political winners in recent times.
“While the previous six federal elections in Australia went the favorite’s way, this result joins the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum in the same year as recent political events where the betting market has not predicted the winner,” he said.
The biggest bet on the Coalition with TAB was $12,490 at $5.50. Meanwhile a punter who placed $1 million with Labor to win with Ladbrokes was not as lucky as the Sportsbet punters.
The anonymous NSW man stood to win $230,000, but instead may well now be wishing he gambled with Sportsbet. It was the largest bet in Ladbrokes’ history.