Don’t bet on it

Last weekend saw possibly the biggest betting weekend in the UK calendar, with the Grand National, Boat race and two FA Cup semi-finals taking place on Saturday and Sunday. Ordinarily you would expect it to be a good weekend for the bookies, but with Tiger Roll winning the National, Cambridge the Boat race and Manchester City winning the first semi-final, it was probably a bad weekend for the bookies.

Not that we should shed too many tears for the bookmaking industry; after all, it’s much more rare for them to lose out than cash in. It’s always the stories of a fluke result (Leicester City anyone?) or a lucky accumulator (the punter who won £182,567 from a £2 bet at the Cheltenham festival recently) that grab the headlines rather than the results of the betting companies (bet365 posted turnover growth of 25% and 26% growth in profit for 2018, £2.86bn and £587.6m respectively).

Other than the relatively recent attempts to save tax by offshoring, these sums help swell the UK’s coffers, certainly way more than some global megaliths who seem to view paying local tax as optional rather than a trading necessity. Even if Denise Coates takes huge dividends, she still pays a vast amount over in income tax, not to mention her charitable donations.

What is staggering is the amount that was wagered with bet365 in 2018, £52.56bn. Taking the US version of £1bn, that equated to nearly £8,000 for every single man, woman, child and inter-sexual individual in the UK; myself, my wife and children don’t bet, so someone somewhere got an extra £32,000 to use. And that was with just one bookmaker.

Obviously a lot of this money is bets that are “reinvested”, and I wonder how much of this is the “free” £10 bets you get when opening a new account? Regardless, it is still eye-watering and It would make a sizeable dent in government borrowing if, instead of gambling it, the money was just paid over to the Treasury.

Perhaps that should be the Chancellor’s next idea – either suggesting that the general public “donate” their bets to the government, or that he puts all the money about to be wasted on HS2 on Manchester City to win the FA cup final.

Or the quadruple…………..

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