Sunday, September 26News That Matters

The Gambling Company That Had the Best Pandemic Ever

The world that her father credits Ms. Coates with creating is reflected in a television ad for bet365 that ran before the Stoke-Watford game. It featured the actor turned pitchman Ray Winstone, who sat in the back of a luxury sedan, dressed in a dark suit, idling in traffic and exuding ease and control.

“At bet365 we’re always innovating and creating,” he said in a Cockney accent, staring at the camera. Cellphone in hand, apparently ready to place some wagers, he ticked through a list of those innovations, including something called “in-play betting.”

In-play betting allows customers to wager throughout a sporting event, on minutiae that has little bearing on the outcome. How many corner kicks will there be in the first half of a soccer game? How many players will be ejected? What will happen first during a 10-minute increment — a throw-in, a free kick, a goal kick, something else? When those minutes expire, the site takes wagers on the next 10.

“It’s very much like being in a casino,” said Jake Thomas, a former gambling industry executive who chaperoned a reporter, over the phone, through the website during the Stoke-Watford game. “Why wait 90 minutes to find out if your team is going to win? Why not get a little buzz betting on the next corner kick?”

As Mr. Thomas spoke, and the minutes ticked by, the odds of dozens of wagers were constantly repriced. A bet that Stoke would score in the first 30 minutes paid 9 to 1 at just over 25 minutes into the game. A moment later, as that outcome appeared fractionally less likely, the same bet paid 19 to 2.

The company has said it takes action on 100,000 events throughout the year, on sports and races around the world — greyhounds in New Zealand, women’s table tennis in Ukraine, golf in Dubai. There’s even a section on politics. (George Clooney is currently 100 to 1 to win the American presidency in 2024.)

If no live events appeal, virtual events beckon. These are video-generated simulations of tennis matches; games of football, soccer, basketball and cricket; and on and on. One afternoon, bicycle races in a virtual velodrome were running every three minutes, each lasting about a minute.