Leicester City's astounding Premier League win creates huge loss for British bookmakers

By Des Bieler

Leicester City's astounding English Premier League win, wrapped up today when its closest pursuer, Tottenham, coughed up a two-goal lead and settled for a draw with Chelsea, can be summed up in one number: 5,000. As in the ludicrously long odds - 5,000-1 - placed on the Foxes before the season.

To put that into perspective, bettors in England, where just about everything is subject to wagering at widespread sports books, would have gotten much lower odds - 2,000-1, according to the Associated Press -- on Elvis Presley being found alive. At Paddy Power, a major bookmaker in Ireland and the U.K., President Obama declaring that the moon landing was faked was seen as a mere 500-1 shot.

"In hindsight, we were idiots offering odds of 5,000-1," the company said in a statement (via the AP). Now, as Leicester City celebrates the most unlikely win in the history of the Premier League, Paddy Power and just about every other sports book that offered odds on EPL futures face their biggest losses ever.

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According to the Telegraph, the Leicester-related losses total an unprecedented $37 million, even with just a relative handful of bettors putting money on the Foxes.

"Leicester winning the title was in the realms of the ridiculous, and it has cost us the biggest anti-post payout in our 130-year history," a spokeman for Ladbrokes told that newspaper.

"The unthinkable has become reality and we're facing paying out the sort of liability that you joke about at the start of the season," a spokesman for Sky Bet said to the Guardian. In its 132-year history, Leicester City, a club with nowhere near the resources of glamorous rivals such as Manchester United and Arsenal, had never won England's top league, and as recently as two years ago, the Foxes were competing in the next rung down; eight years ago, they were mired in England's third-tier league.

"For a 5,000-1 shot to emerge as a winner is absolutely off the charts in betting terms," the Ladbrokes spokesman said. "The longest odds on a Grand National winner were 100-1, England were 250-1 before they won the Ashes in 1981, and Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson as a 50-1 shot in 1990, so nothing else comes close."

The bookmakers will take the massive hit despite the fact that they convinced some anxious Leicester backers to take smaller payouts before the team locked up the title. One Englishman who placed £50, or about $73, on the Foxes before the season, accepted a settlement in March from Ladbrokes of $105,000, when he would have made $367,000 had he let it ride. "It's a life-changing amount of money and we congratulate our customer for holding his nerve this long," a Ladbrokes spokeswoman told the Guardian.

All the bets made on the big-name EPL clubs also helped defray the bookmakers' losses, but they'll be shivering at the thought of what just happened for years to come. However, at least one bookmaker is betting that something like this won't happen again anytime soon, as Betfred has given Burnley, a team that was just promoted to the EPL, the same 5,000-1 odds of winning the league next season.

"Some people might say that we'll never learn, but I just can't see a huge shock like Leicester's fantastic success happening again," Betfred co-owner Fred Done told The Guardian.

- Washington Post

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