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Betting Agency to Lose at Least $5.2 Million After Paying Out Labor Bets Early

Bookies were so convinced Bill Shorten was going to win that they paid out $1.3 million to punters before a single vote was counted. Then Bill Shorten lost.

by Gavin Butler
20 May 2019, 3:25am

Image via Wikimedia (L) and Flickr user williamnyk, CC licence 2.0 (R)

Last week, in the final days leading up to Australia’s federal election, bookmakers at Sportsbet had opposition leader Bill Shorten tipped at $1.16 to win. The betting company described the odds as “Winx like”, in reference to the Australian thoroughbred racehorse that won 33 consecutive races between 2015 and 2019, and noted that 70 percent of all money wagered on the election had backed a Labor victory.

“With punters so confident, as of this morning, we’ve paid out early on all bets placed on Labor to win Saturday’s Federal Election,” they announced on Thursday. Then Labor lost—and now, as a result, Sportsbet themselves stand to lose at least $5.2 million, according to Fairfax.

"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 the Sydney Morning Herald. "Our punters had called the election early. We thought we'd simply give them their cash early."

"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," the company added. "You don’t see that very often in bookmaking."

One such winner bet $12,490 on a Coalition victory while the odds were sitting at $5.50—which would have earned them a payout of $68,695. An anonymous man in New South Wales, on the other hand, bet and lost $1 million on a Labor victory. That bet was placed through international bookies Ladbrokes, and became the largest in the betting agency’s history—the previous record bet being $370,000 on Winx, SBS reported.

“We’ve obviously seen some sizable bets come through in recent times, many of them on Winx, but clearly this gentleman thinks the Labor Party is a safer bet than the now retired mighty mare,” said Ladbrokes Australia’s Chief Executive Jason Scott earlier this month.

If the widely-projected Labor victory had come to fruition, the anonymous better would have pocketed some $230,000 in winnings. Like the bare majority of the nation’s pollsters, however, the punter was proven wrong on Saturday night.

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