Estimates place wagers for and against Britain's EU membership at GBP 120 million
Betting on whether British voters would opt to stay or leave the European Union – the Brexit issue – reportedly reached GBP 120 million, with UK bookmakers generally feeling varying degrees of pain as a result of the unexpected "out" result.
Betfair did better than most, mainly due to the commission nature of its betting exchange business model, and handled around GBP 80 million of the wagers.
Ladbrokes and Betfred admitted to only modest profits, with the former advising the Financial Times that the average stake on "remain" bets was as high as GBP 400, whilst those on "leave" were GBP 70.
William Hill lost heavily, reporting a GBP 400,000 loss on GBP 3 million wagers handled. The firm's shares plunged as low as 17 percent before recovering somewhat but are still trading lower than before the Brexit results, adversely impacting the company's market cap by around GBP 300 million.
Whilst not as severe, share prices for Paddy Power and Ladbrokes also took something of a beating but are recovering.
Some investment pundits did very well out the debacle, with one 36-year-old hedge fund manager enhancing his already lofty reputation by betting correctly that Brit voters would go for the "leave" option.
London business media reports lauded James Hanbury as a rising star for making GBP 110 million out of Brexit by betting against the pound sterling.
Hanbury manages GBP 1.1billion for Odey Asset Management, and gambled that the result of the historic referendum would be "leave", with a consequent plunge of the British pound.
He did this despite the results of a private poll he had commissioned, which predicted a Remain vote, instead going with his gut and foreseeing the decline of the pound, but reasoning that if the vote was to remain the pound would be unlikely to rise significantly in any case.
He was literally on the money – the pound fell 10 percent to 31-year lows against the US dollar in the aftermath of the "leave" vote.
Hanbury single-handedly turned his fund's 5 percent loss to date into a profit with the audacious move, enhancing a reputation for doubling his clients' money over the past five years, out-performing his rivals.
His Brexit success is being compared to that of international finance guru George Soros, who in 1992 made a shrewd bet against the pound sterling by short-selling over GBP 7.6 billion, and scored multiple millions when the pound crashed as the UK government reversed out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
Soros, incidentally, slipped up on Brexit by failing to see the "leave" vote coming and strongly supporting the idea that the UK would remain in the European Union.
Hanbury's client, billionaire investor Crispin Odey, reportedly also prospered by betting that the pound would plunge in the wake of a "leave" vote, reaping a 21 percent profit for his own main hedge fund, an amount that some reports suggest topped GBP 200 million.
Gold, always popular as a refuge in uncertain times, also benefitted from the "leave" vote, hitting a two year high of $1,350 an announce last week.
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