World Cup bettors have a lousy week

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JOHANNESBURG—Everyone in England reacted with horror on Sunday after a missed call robbed Frank Lampard of a goal against Germany. Everyone, that is, except the bookies.

English bookmakers were on the hook for more than $100 million had England gone on to win the World Cup. That would have been the biggest payout ever in the history of British bookmaking, according to London bookmaker William Hill PLC.

Sports gamblers are wagering more money than ever on this World Cup, taking advantage of more in-game and remote betting options, and more widespread TV and Internet access.

Even before the tournament reaches the quarterfinals, many Las Vegas, U.K. and South African sports books have seen as much action as they did through the entire 2006 World Cup. Many anticipate at least a doubling of the total handle from that tournament, although the event still pales in comparison with bigger U.S. sports events like the Super Bowl. (The biggest World Cup match-ups draw about as much action in the U.S. as low-tier NFL games, American sports-book directors say.)

William Hill is expecting this to be the first sports tournament to see $2 billion turnover in British bookmaking history. It has been doing so well that bookmakers paid out to bettors who had put money on Mr. Lampard's scoring a goal on Sunday, even though the record will show that he went goal-less.

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