Paddy Power pays out early on Greece voting ‘yes’ in referendum


Paddy Power Plc “paid out five figures” in winnings to gamblers who bet that Greece will back a July 5 austerity referendum that may seal the nation’s future as part of the euro region.

“Despite some polls suggesting it’s neck and neck, over the last few days we’ve seen enough to be convinced,” Paddy Power, Ireland’s largest bookmaker, said in an e-mail in Dublin on Wednesday. ‘‘In a race with two potential outcomes we’ve seen over 85 percent of money go one way and that’s massive.’’

Gambling companies routinely pay out early on sporting events when they regard the result as a foregone conclusion, in part because it draws publicity and in part because gamblers often recycle winnings into other wagers.

Occasionally, the gambit goes wrong. In 2003, Paddy Power paid out early on Arsenal winning the title, which was eventually won by Manchester United.

Paddy Power had offered odds of 2/7 – representing an 80 percent chance– that Greeks would pass the referendum.

Stephen Schwarzman, founder of private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP, said Wednesday he expects Greek voters to support a referendum.

‘‘I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a strong ‘yes’ vote,” said Schwarzman.

Schwarzman was speaking just as it emerged that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has offered to accept proposals from the nation’s creditors to end a standoff over its bailout program, subject to certain conditions. Greece’s creditor institutions still view an austerity referendum, planned for July 5, as an issue for reaching an accord with Tsipras, according to an EU official. [Bloomberg]