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Bookies clean up on Brazil’s exit – but they’re still whining

Brazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup BrazilBrazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
There's always someone who spoils it. Oscar's late consolation goal triggered a big payout on in-play bets.Robert Cianflone Getty Images

There’s only set of people happier than the German soccer team this morning, and that’s the bookmakers, who should be sending champagne by the caseload to Toni Kroos, Miroslav Klose and pals after their dismantling of Brazil.

In the U.K., Europe’s largest betting market, over 35% of all people who bet on the tournament winner had backed Brazil, confident that nobody would be able to beat soccer’s perennial superpower on its home turf.

Given that this year’s World Cup is set to become the country’s first-ever billion pound ($1.7 billion) sporting event, and given that outright bets on the tournament winner are the biggest single market within that, the mere fact of Brazil losing should have put a smile on every bookie’s face.

But it didn’t stop there. The incredible 7-1 result meant that they also cleaned up on correct score markets. William Hill Plc (WIMHF) spokesman Joe Crilly said not a single one of their U.K. punters got that one right–although, amazingly, one man in northern England did pocket GBP240 after betting a mighty 80 pence ($1.32) on the score being 5-0 to Germany at half-time.

But, as everyone knows, bookies are second only to farmers (and maybe central bankers) in complaining when they’re doing well, and they had no intention of disappointing on Wednesday morning.

“Within the in-play markets, we didn’t do anywhere near as well as we ought to have done,” moaned David Williams, a spokesman for Ladbrokes Plc (LDBKF), who nonetheless couldn’t quite get the satisfaction out of his voice.

In-play betting now accounts for almost half the money staked on events, he said, and too many people had seen which way the wind was blowing and had put money on Germany to score a hatful of goals after the first couple went in.

Even worse, within the in-play markets, one of the most popular bets is for both teams to score. That money had been destined for the bookies’ pockets until Oscar scored for Brazil two minutes into stoppage time, triggering “a seven-figure payout,” according to Crilly. Hardly “the most pointless consolation goal of all time,” as BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce called it.

Having already pocketed millions blown by the absurdly optimistic English on their own team (“the England team – patron saint of bookmakers for half a century”, says Williams), it’s promising to be a highly profitable tournament for the bookies. But you wouldn’t guess it from the stock market’s reaction: Ladbrokes’ shares were down 1.2% early Wednesday, while William Hill were down 0.5% and Betfair Group Plc’s were down 0.9%.