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Anne Lindner

Online Bookmakers Find Value in Trivial Bets

10 July 2001

One of the most popular "trivial" bets at U.K.-based is something that its head of business development isn't quite willing to brand as trivial.

Tim Levene said that the single most popular non-sporting, non-racing bet on flutter was last fall's U.S. presidential race. More users bet on the outcome of that race than on the outcome of England's own general election on that website.

"If two people get together on both sides, then we have a market, which is the beauty of these categories," he said.

Noting that George W. Bush and Al Gore's fight to the finish could be called trivial as a result of the farce that ensued after the general election, Levene didn't know whether the U.S. presidential race was something many people wanted classified as truly (as-defined-by-Webster's) trivial. But in the realm of betting, the election of America's head of state ranks right up there with TV shows Big Brother and Survivor as topics of interest.

Trivial betting--betting on things like small animal races and the outcome of television shows--is so popular a feature at Blue Square's website that its press officer, Ed Pownall, doesn't see the activity as trivial at all. has offered such wagering since its launch in May 1999. Since then the site has offered betting on hamster races, snail races, soap operas and the Oscars, to name a few of the options.

Simon Noble, an owner of Antigua-based Intertops, which offers the service, said trivial betting is a way for people to bet on things from everyday life.

"For a lot of people these are fun things to bet on, things that they are watching every day, in the same way they bet on sports," he said.

Intertops currently offers bets on what kind of community service rapper Eminem will do to work off his conviction, whether Princess Mikasa of Japan will give birth to a boy or a girl and whether Julia Roberts will get back together with her recently exed boyfriend, Benjamin Bratt.

"We have a ton available at the moment," Noble said. "I guess probably one of the all-time favorites we did was offer betting on Survivor. When we did that it really seemed to touch a nerve."

Intertops received 15,000 individual wagers on the first Survivor series. Quite a lot on a so-called trivial bet, Noble said.

In terms of revenue generated, however, trivial betting still doesn't compare to sports betting, Levene of said. Sports betting and horse betting are still's core business. On average trivial bet amounts are in the single digits, he said.

"In the scheme of things, this is a PR angle rather than a revenue-generating angle," Levene said, noting that in trivial bets the amount staked is usually not as high as in sports bets. "I think the newspapers in the U.K. always like a story about the odds on--if there's a celebrity--when they're going to get divorced. The press are always looking for a story."

Noble said something similar about the public relations aspect: "Every year we offer bets on Groundhog Day," he said. "We usually get woken up at four in the morning for a radio interview in Pennsylvania." is currently reaping thousands of bets on Big Brother, which is about five weeks into the series in the U.K., and Survivor, which is also currently running. The company has offered this style of wagering since the launch of the site in May of 2000.

Another aspect to trivial betting is that women seem to compose a larger portion of trivial bettors that sports bettors. Women, Levene said, make up an average of 20 percent of bettors in the trivial category. In core betting, on the other hand, women only make between 5 percent and 10 percent of the bets.

For Intertops, Noble said, the number of trivial bettors is 50 percent male and 50 percent female. In sports wagering on that site, the gender split is 90 percent male versus 10 percent female.

Pownall of, on the other hand, resists the idea that trivial bettors can be profiled in any way. "There is no one type as both serious and occasional punters may bet on something like the hamster racing; we had bets of £200 on the hamsters as well as the more expected £1 bets," he said. has offered this type of betting since its launch in May 1999. Intertops has had the option since 1983 and since 1996 via the Internet, Noble said.

"Basically," he said, "the nice thing to betting is the limit is your imagination."

Online Bookmakers Find Value in Trivial Bets is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner