Vice Squad
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Weird Wagers

A friend of Vice Squad brings us our attention to this recent New York Times article concerning legal bookmakers in the UK and Ireland who accept "novelty" bets. So if you have deep insight into which Simpsons character will come out of the closet in January, you have the opportunity to earn a little money. Here's the start of the Times story, written by Lizette Alvarez:
LONDON, Aug. 30 - It took just 69 seconds for John Motson, the well-known BBC soccer commentator, to utter one of his notorious clichés - "these are nervous moments" - during the start of the England vs. Portugal match back in July.

With those words, bookmakers got walloped, paying out at least $36,000 to the 50 people who correctly wagered on the first cliché Mr. Motson would speak that evening on national television. The odds on that phrase started high at 40 to 1, behind "Captain Marvel," for the soccer star David Beckham, "dreaded penalties" and "boy wonder," a nod to Wayne Rooney, the tournament's top scorer.

Betting on a commentator's first cliché may seem a touch absurd to most people, even gamblers, but in Britain and Ireland it is, ahem, the tip of the iceberg.
Later in the story is information about betting via interactive television, a practice that has become quite popular in the UK. And you might be surprised by the nature of some of the gambling:
Britain's largest satellite service, Sky, now offers a dedicated gambling channel called Avago (as in, have a go), where viewers can bet via their digital remote. Tune into Avago in the late morning and witness "Squeal of Fortune," a new show that features a farmhand surrounded by piglets inside a hay-covered pen. He kneels and, as the announcer builds suspense, he grabs a piglet and shows viewers its belly, which features a number from 1 to 9.

"Our pig handler is there," the announcer says, breathlessly. "He is diving in. There is no messing about. It's a No. 1. Confirmation. It's No. 1."

Viewers can also wager on a gerbil, which is spun around on a platform and then scurries off into one of eight surrounding gerbil houses. Bet on the right house, and win at "Gerbil Roulette."

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