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What Scares Bookmakers in Setting Odds for Lesser-Known Football Leagues?

We have all seen the scenario when an underdog team is out on the road against a top-six side in the Premier League. The visitors generally show up with a bit of fear and defensive tactics from the kick-off as they set their stall out not to lose instead of trying to win.

That’s a reasonable approach in some circumstances for lower-quality teams just to try and hang on to grab a point. A point is better than losing. But why do bookmakers take the same cautious approach when it comes to pricing up lesser-known teams?

Everything that a bookmaker does at the end of the day, is down to risk assessment and profit margins. They must be on the side of caution when it comes to pricing up football betting markets that they know aren’t going to generate a huge volume of interest.

The Problem of Variety

The sheer volume of leagues and cup competitions that can be found at a single online bookmaker site is staggering. Over at Legalbet for example, an informative platform with the ratings of the best legal betting sites in Russia, all of the operators listed have a lot in common. They all have a fantastic variety of football competitions and they all keep the narrow lines on lesser-known teams and tournaments.

For leagues that barely register with the general public, bookmakers know that this is not the area where they are going to make the most of their money. That will be from big matches like the UEFA Champions League Final or the week’s top Serie A clash from Italy.

They post so much variety to make their sportsbook look bigger, to give punters the chance at least to find more obscure teams. But there’s high risk in those markets for the bookmakers, because a game from the Lithuanian second division is just not going to attract as many bettors as a La Liga match is. So even a few winning bets on the former could leave them short.

Understanding the Odds

The odds of a match aren’t the most accurate predictor of an outcome. The bookmaker is controlling the odds to try and make a profit. So if in Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Madrid received a lot of bets for the win, the bookmaker would shave value off their odds quote.

It could be shifting them from 1.80 to 1.40 for example, to make them less appealing for bettors, due to less potential profit. On the flip side, they would lengthen the Barcelona odds, maybe from 2.50 to 2.90 to try and get people to bet on them.

Barcelona’s chances of winning the match haven’t improved, the bookmaker has just tweaked the lines so they can target more potential profit from extra losing bets placed on them.

The Lesser Known

Apply that to lesser-known teams, then you can see why the lines stay fairly average. There’s not going to be as much public interest in a match from France’s Ligue 2 for example, so the lines are going to need to be shifted very much.

The bookmaker isn’t also going to come out and produce generous odds on less popular matches, because if they had 50 winning bets on a home win for a 2.00 quote, then there would likely not be as much action on the other side of the market to compensate for the payout.

Unknown Variables

You can jump online and easily find information about the world’s top competitions like the World Cup and the English Premier League. It is easy to find match previews, tips, form and insights covering everything from the latest team news to managerial changes.

That level of coverage is not available across lesser-known leagues. There is a void of information about players, tactics and even the importance of a given match.

Data exists like head-to-head, form and standings to help piece odds together, but it’s never going to be as accurate on lower-ranked leagues than on say Europe’s Big 5 leagues. Unknowns equate to risk, and bookmakers aren’t going to play with risk.

Match Fixing Risk

There could be a further scenario as well in bookmakers playing things cautiously with unknown leagues. There is always the potential for match-fixing. The lower down the tiers you go, then the further matches get away from the spotlight of TV cameras and levels of officiating may not be as high quality. Arguably, therefore, the potential of match fixing goes up. Again, it’s all about risk assessment for bookmakers.

In Summary

Variety is a great thing to have at an online betting site. That provides options for finding the exact markets that you want from the leagues and cups that interest you the most. But as a rule of thumb, the more high-profile the game is, the more likely you are going to be able to find better value across the markets.

Published by Patrick Jane