LONDON Record sums are likely to be wagered in Britain on Sunday's World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, bookmakers said on Friday, illustrating soccer's growing value to the betting industry.
About 40 million pounds ($68 million) could be staked on the game in the UK, beating the figure gambled on the 2012 Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, said Ladbrokes, Britain's second-largest bookmaker.
Market leader William Hill has already beaten its own 200 million pound target for betting on this summer's World Cup despite England's early exit from the tournament in Brazil.
The total is double that achieved by William Hill during the previous tournament in 2010 and shows the growth in soccer betting among younger gamblers who have grown up on a diet of live televised matches.
Bookmakers had viewed the World Cup as an opportunity to build market share before the introduction of new taxes over the next year - expected to cost the industry about 400 million pounds - and have bombarded television viewers with advertisements in breaks during matches.
England's 2-1 defeat by Uruguay to send them packing at the group stage was the biggest match so far for William Hill during the month-long tournament. More than 5.5 million pounds was wagered online and in the company's chain of betting shops.
William Hill did not give any indication of how profitable the World Cup had been, saving that detail for its next results statement, due on Aug. 1.
However, betting companies haven't been the only winners. Bookies said on Wednesday that four gamblers struck lucky after putting money on Germany to beat Brazil by the outlandish 7-1 scoreline in the semi-final.
Both teams to score is a popular bet and Oscar's late consolation goal for Brazil in the semi-final cost William Hill more than a million pounds, a company spokesman said.
Ladbrokes said it was pleased with the amount of business during the World Cup and with customer reaction to its mobile app. The company has fallen behind William Hill after a series of problems with its online operations.
($1 = 0.5877 British Pounds)
(Editing by David Holmes and David Goodman)