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New light on the longshot bias

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  • Les Coleman

Abstract

The longshot bias is the tendency for bettors to put more money on horses with long odds than is justified by their objective probability of winning: thus favourites win more often than projected by their odds. This challenges normative assumptions as it means the return increases with the probability of winning. Even though the longshot bias is well-known, it has defied authoritative explanation. This article draws on studies of the longshot bias over 50 years across four continents to show that its nature is consistent with two bettor populations. One is risk-averse, knowledgeable about winners, backs favourites, believes in the gambler's fallacy, and has a positive expected return. The other, a larger group is risk loving, backs longshots, believes in hot hands, and has a significant, negative expected return. The crossover between the two groups occurs where the probability of a positive result is about 0.2. This matches the transition from risk aversion to risk embrace which has been found in a variety of behavioural studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Les Coleman, 2004. "New light on the longshot bias," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(4), pages 315-326.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:36:y:2004:i:4:p:315-326
    DOI: 10.1080/00036840410001674240
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Maschke Mario & Schmidt Ulrich, 2011. "Das Wettmonopol in Deutschland: Status quo und Reformansätze," Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 60(1), pages 110-124, April.
    2. Page, Lionel, 2009. "Is there an optimistic bias on betting markets?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 102(2), pages 70-72, February.
    3. Bruce, A.C. & Johnson, J.E.V. & Peirson, J., 2012. "Recreational versus professional bettors: Performance differences and efficiency implications," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 114(2), pages 172-174.
    4. Martin Kukuk & Stefan Winter, 2008. "An Alternative Explanation of the Favorite-Longshot Bias," Journal of Gambling Business and Economics, University of Buckingham Press, vol. 2(2), pages 79-96, September.
    5. Smith, Michael A. & Vaughan Williams, Leighton, 2010. "Forecasting horse race outcomes: New evidence on odds bias in UK betting markets," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 543-550, July.
    6. Les Coleman, 2007. "Just How Serious is Insider Trading? An Evaluation using Thoroughbred Wagering Markets," Journal of Gambling Business and Economics, University of Buckingham Press, vol. 1(1), pages 31-55, February.
    7. Jinook Jeong & Jee Young Kim & Yoon Jae Ro, 2017. "On the Efficiency of Racetrack Betting Market: A New Test for the Favorite-Longshot Bias," Working papers 2017rwp-106, Yonsei University, Yonsei Economics Research Institute.
    8. Lionel Page & Robert T. Clemen, 2013. "Do Prediction Markets Produce Well‐Calibrated Probability Forecasts?-super-," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(568), pages 491-513, May.
    9. Alistair C. Bruce & Johnnie E. V. Johnson & John D. Peirson & Jiejun Yu, 2009. "An Examination of the Determinants of Biased Behaviour in a Market for State Contingent Claims," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(302), pages 282-303, April.
    10. Les Coleman, 2005. "Why explore for oil when it is cheaper to buy?," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(8), pages 493-497.
    11. John Peirson & Michael A. Smith, 2010. "Symposium Expert Analysis and Insider Information in Horse Race Betting: Regulating Informed Market Behavior," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 976-992, April.
    12. Stefan Winter & Martin Kukuk, 2008. "Do horses like vodka and sponging? - On market manipulation and the favourite-longshot bias," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(1), pages 75-87.

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