Monday, June 21, 2010

Contest: What's Wrong With This Article?

(Note:  I intend, over the next year or so, to sponsor a number of contests designed to encourage students (and anyone else) to improve their analytic skills.  Today's contest has to do with critical reading skills.

The rules are simple:  The first person to post the correct answer in the comments wins an incredibly valuable, gold-plated Mercyhurst College Institute of Intelligence Studies T-shirt.  OK, so it's not gold-plated.  It is still incredibly valuable...

Obviously, anonymous answers won't count.)

Assume for a minute that the portion of the article copied below is important to some analysis you are working on.  There is something here that may be wrong or it may be right but it is definitely worth checking out (Hint:  It is not the obvious stuff).  What is it it and why (correct answers must include both)?

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -- Argentina have become the bookies' favourite to win the first World Cup on African soil, after two clear wins in their opening matches while their closest competitors have failed to impress.
Bookmaker William Hill said England's lacklustre goalless draw with Algeria on Friday was one of the most profitable matches involving the national team ever as fans lost money on bets for them to win in Cape Town.
"The game against Algeria was probably the biggest winning match involving England for us ever -- we made an absolute fortune," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

"On that match I estimate that the British bookmaking industry made $14.8 million," he added.

Sharpe said the overall turnover may be affected if England, who meet Slovenia on Wednesday in their last group match, do not qualify for the second round.

"What will happen is that overall turnover will go down," he said. "British punters will lost interest in the World Cup if England go out."
You can read the rest of the article here but I am only interested in the portion copied above.  In addition, you should not need to do any additional research to answer this challenge.

Good luck!
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35 comments:

Ryan said...

The first argument - that Argentina is the bookies' favourite to win the World Cup - does not seem to have a source cited for it (but it seems to be implied that it is Hill and in that case see the following as the same will apply)

The second - that the England-Argentina game was one of the most profitable for an England game for the betting industry - seems to be based on a single-source: Bookmaker William Hill, or rather his spokesman Mr. Sharpe. The assertion could be correct, but single-source would need to be confirmed since William Hill is not the only bookmaker in the industry.

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

Good comment but not what I was looking for...

Kris

David said...

The article seems to be didjointed.
The first paragraph mentions Argentina. The second paragraph mentions England. Going back to the first paragraph, questions that come to my mind are the following.
Was Aregntina the only team to win its first two games? What about other teams in other brackets? If other teams won their first two games, why are they not also favored to win? Could it be that the author is trying to ifluence?

Michelle said...

First Off, "Argentina have become the bookies' favourite to win the first World Cup on African soil" does not specify which bookies have Argentina as a favorite. For this could be applicable towards bookies within the states or internationally.

Next, "The game against Algeria was probably the biggest winning match involving England for us ever," either it was the largest or it wasnt. There needs to be a stronger use of vocabulary there.

Finally, "Sharpe said the overall turnover may be affected if England.."Once again either it is difficult to ascertain whether it would or would not be affected, words of estimated probability would be great here..

-Michelle tatavosian

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

David, Michelle;

Like(!) those comments but it is something simpler but less obvious (if that makes any sense)...

K

Nirish said...

I was thinking the same thing as Michelle, but in light of this being something simpler (but less obvious) the only thing I can seem to point out is that Sharpe said they made 14.8 million DOLLARS not POUNDS. Seems relatively insignificant to me, but that's that comes to mind.

btrain said...

parallel structure is off.

Mike said...

Seems the source city should be listed as London or somewhere in England, not JOHANNESBURG. The story is about team England and its booking volumes. Why the reporting from JOHANNESBURG?

Jason said...

What is the relationship between England's performance in the World Cup and the English bookmaker's profits?

David said...

Rereading this again, this phrase is an interesting choice of words
"lacklustre goalless draw" How does the reporter know it was lackluster?

Bud Livers said...

A couple of things jump out. 1) The name of the bookie, William Hill aka "Bill Hill" is possibly a nom-de-plume. And as to the illusive "Mr. Sharpe"? Has he no first name?
2) As pointed out elsewhere, the betting losses should be expressed in Pounds and not Dollars.
3) Is this contest held in CAPETOWN, or is it in JOHANNESBURG? Seems a bit disconnected there.
4) There are several errors in grammar...

Jason said...

Is William Hill a person or an organization?

John said...

Let's take a stab--
Basically, this guy wants to have his cake and eat it too. I don't imagine he would last too long working in vegas.

He is saying two things--that the UK being in the World Cup is going to get more wagering than them being out of it (losing in the second round).

He is also saying that the UK losing is making them a boatload of money (due to the tendency for UKers to bet on their team).

The problem here is that both of these things can't happen at the same time. He wants the UK to win--which means he is going to lose the majority of wagers placed with him, even thought the volume of wagers will be higher He also wants them to lose, because most of those wagers are pro-UK.

I'm not sure what the ideal situation for him would be (UK makes it to the final game and draws or something) but I certainly don't think he knows either.

Jason said...

"Not so the more traditional bookies, with big brand names and advertising clout. Graham Sharp, a spokesman for William Hill (WIMHF), said the World Cup could see turnover across the betting industry rising by up to £1bn, with thousands of new online accounts opened."

Sarah said...
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Sarah said...
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Sarah said...

just kidding about Algeria not being a competitor. I was mistaken.

Bob said...

Bookie's favorites (odds) are based on wagers not expected scores. All this means is the money is going to Argentina to win so the bookies pay less for that. It is not a stated expectation of a final winner by the bookie only a representation that most of the people placing bets think that betting Argentina to win provides the best return on investment or they are die hard Argentina fans.

John said...

"Hill said England's lacklustre goalless draw with Algeria on Friday..."

"The game against Algeria was probably the biggest winning match involving England for us ever..."

How can it be a winning match if it was a draw?

Nirish said...

What Bob said is quite interesting (and true). However, if the wagers are already placed on Argentina to win the World Cup, it shouldn't matter whether England is still alive or not, right? I mean, once a wager is placed, it's placed and there is no going back. So although I believe betting on individual games may decrease if England fails to advance, betting on who wins the World Cup would still continue. As a side note, odds are not static, so if Argentina performs poorly against Greece in its next match, the betting odds in favor of Argentina winning the tournament could decrease (or vice versa if they continue playing well).

Bob said...

The other thing that strikes me is the statement that the British will lose interest in the World Cup if their national team goes out. While they may bet less I am not convinced they will lose interest. For most sports fans even if their favorite is not represented the fan still has interest in the outcome of a championship competition. The fan just may not back up that interest with money at a bookie. Television ratings might be one method to verify interest in lieu of betting.

Jeffrey said...

The author uses the plural possessive pronoun instead of the singular possessive pronoun when referring to a nation.

"Argentina have become the bookies' favourite to win the first World Cup" should read: "Argentina has become the bookies' favourite to win the first World Cup"


Where the author states: "England, who meet Slovenia on Wednesday in their last group match" it should read: "England, who meets Slovenia on Wednesday in its last group match"

סירוטניקוב said...

"The game against Algeria was probably the biggest winning match involving England for us ever -- we made an absolute fortune," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

To me it screams that the bookies have a pattern involving England being a good target for winning.

Enough to mention they somehow keep track of the amount of money they made on England alone.

Its either a weird mistake, or very poor journalistic instincts on behalf of the writer.

Siro said...

a short google later, it's not that surprising since William Hill is UK betting site, so it's logical the speaker would have the English team singled out.

Siro said...

to be clear - the two posts above are by the same user - me.

My first comment lead me to discover my user name is in Hebrew, which I changed.

Kerry said...

The game against Algeria was a draw, not a winning game. Also why would William Hill is $ when the UK deal in pounds? Just observations....

Stewart said...

To say that Argentina are now the favourites and "while their closest competitors have failed to impress" and then to go onto only talk about England's performance gives the distinct, and erroneous, implication that England were Argentina's closest competitors.

ddade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean O'Connor said...

It isn't the first World Cup on African soil, only the first soccer World Cup on African soil.

ddade said...

I suspect that the quoted source was not a bookie at all, but rather a bookie's PR man. He is implying that the bookie industry is somehow a game of aptitude in selecting winners, instead of the rigged racket that it is.

The truth is that bookies play both sides, and offer odds that impel takers to balance their books, eliminating risk for them. For example, if England is "favored" 20:1 over Argentina, that does not mean that anyone in particular thinks that England will win; it means that the bookie is extremely Argentina-heavy on bets, and he desperately needs people to bet on England and knows how to use the human foible of greed to achieve that. He is exposed, and if Argentina were to win, he would not have the cash to cover his own losing bets. The rapid changing of odds as a game approaches is not the result of changing opinions on the outcome, but rather reflects only the distribution of the bookie's outlays.

If we take the two teams to be of opposite signs, then as long as the sum of the products of the outlay and the odds at which the outlay was made sums to zero, the bookie is in the risk-free zone.

I think the entire intent of the article is to present bet taking as somehow a legitimate operation where a bookie's take is proportional to his skill and daring, rather than his practical knowledge of human cognitive failures in order to make large sums of money in a risk-free environment.

Rich Penman said...

According to the article we have South Africans betting on England...and losing money!

And the bookies in England are making money on English team losses.

...what has the football world come to?

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

Wow!

Turn your back for a minute and you get 30 interesting comments!

Many thanks to all who participated in the contest. It is very good to see that SAM has so many critical readers (Note to self: TRIPLE check all new posts)...

...and we have a winner!

Even though he called $7 million (at today's exchange rates) relatively insignificant, Nirish was the first one to identify the disconnect between dollars and pounds in the article.

The article was written in British English (using spellings like "favourite" instead of "favorite"), talked about an English business and referred to soccer, a sport which is much more popular in the rest of the world (where it is called "football") than in the US. Likewise, it is hard to imagine that the spokesman for the British company, William Hill, quoted in the story expressed the numbers in dollars when his business is almost certainly conducted in pounds. Furthermore, this is a statement of fact, which can be checked for accuracy, versus a statement of opinion, which typically can only be argued about.

The red flags in the article itself (without reference to other research and without any specialist knowledge of soccer or gambling) are numerous enough and the amount (nearly $7 million) seems large enough to be worth double checking if this story is important to your research at all.

Anyway, that's my answer and I'm sticking to it...

The Nirish I know is a multimillionaire who's only desire remaining in life -- to own an MCIIS t-shirt -- has gone unfulfilled until now. On the off chance that this is a different Nirish, please send your address and t-shirt size to kwheaton at mercyhurst dot edu.

Thanks again to all who participated! Keep an eye out for the next contest!

Kris

dietlein said...

To actually follow up on this disconnect between the use of British English and US $, we can look at the original article on Reuters.

The exact sentence there is:

"On that match I estimate that the British bookmaking industry made 10 million pounds ($14.8 million),"

Thus the disconnect was introduced by the Sports Illustrated or CNN individual who "sanitized" the article for US audiences. (Kris's original link here.

dietlein said...

Let me follow up on my follow up. The mystery may be solved.

What I called the original article at Reuters seems to be missing the British English such as "favourite" and "lacklustre," but includes the British pounds and USD phrase. It seems Reuters does some automatic formatting depending on the "edition" of the article you are viewing. Switching to the UK edition (found here), we see that the British English AND the British pounds / USD terminology is in place.

Thus it seems that the CNN/SI text was taken from the UK edition of Reuters, and the CNN/SI quasi-editor simply removed the British pounds text.

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

Dietlein,

Many thanks for solving the mystery!

Kris