Fred Done is a man who knows what it takes to turn a betting shop into an empire. He opened his first betting shop with his brother Peter back in 1967, using money that the pair had won betting on England to win the World Cup a year before to do so. In the years that followed, Done constantly came up with new ways of improving upon a well-trodden path, even changing the look and nature of the betting shops themselves. Rather than following the ‘spit-and-sawdust’ that other shops used, he put down carpet and called bettors ‘sir’.
He also looked to find new ways to encourage punters to head to a Betfred shop rather than to one of his rivals, doing many ‘firsts’ over the years. As an example, he created the ‘Goals Galore’ coupon, in which bettors pick five matches where they think both teams will score. It proved to be so popular that his rivals followed suit, which is often the case with Done’s ideas. The man himself claims that he invented the Lucky 15 bet, but is there actually any corroborating evidence to back up such a claim? Or is Done telling porkies?
What Is a Lucky 15?
Before we look too far into whether or not Done actually did create the Lucky 15, it is worth offering a quick explanation of what the bet is. You can read about it in more detail elsewhere, but for the purposes of completion and understanding of Done’s claim, it is worth having a brief look here. As the name suggests, a Lucky 15 bet is a wager with 15 individual bets that are combined together for ease of use. You choose four events that you want to bet on, with the Lucky 15 then automatically sorting your bets out for you.
The Lucky 15 breaks down as follows:
- Four Singles
- Six Doubles
- Four Trebles
- One Four-Fold Accumulator
Your four chosen events are bet on as Singles, as well combined for Doubles and Trebles and one accumulator. This means that you are well-covered in the event that several selections win, but will also see at least a small return as long as just one of your selections is a successful one thanks to the presence of the Single bets.
The thing to bear in mind when placing a Lucky 15 is that each of the individual wagers has its own stake. Unlike an accumulator, where all of your selections are covered with the single stake that you choose, a Lucky 15 costs you 15 times your stake. If you want to bet £1, for example, then a Lucky 15 will cost you £15 to place. You could place all 15 selections into your betting slip individually and set your own stake for each, but the whole point of a Lucky 15 is that it does the hard work for you by combining the bets automatically.
Did Fred Done Invent It?
On the Betfred corporate site, it says, “As with any forward-thinking business, we are innovators within the betting sphere. Fred initially came up with the idea of the now hugely popular Lucky 15 bet and to this day we continue to come up with new ideas for bets.” It is a bold claim that some other bookmakers might well take issue with. The question is, is it true, or is Fred Done just chancing his arm by claiming something that it would be all but impossible for someone else to disprove? That is a difficult question to answer.
The reality is that it is all but impossible to find out officially whether or not Done created the Lucky 15 bet. Any attempts to find out such information using search engines tend to present you with nothing but page after page of sites explaining what the Lucky 15 bet is, rather than its origins. Similarly, any sites that say that Fred Done created the Lucky 15 tend to site Done’s own words on the matter, which obviously aren’t all that helpful in terms of corroborating what he says happened when he came up with it for the first time.
Isn’t It Just a ‘Yap’?
Those of you with long memories might well be asking what all the fuss is about, given the Lucky 15 bet was effectively around long before Fred Done came along. There is a bet called a ‘Yap’, which has been around almost as long as modern betting itself. It is a wager of 15 bets on four selections, made up as follows:
- Four Singles
- Six Doubles
- Four Trebles
- One Four-Fold Accumulator
The wager is identical to a Lucky 15 and is also sometimes referred to as a ‘Yankee Patent’. That can confuse matters because it is difficult to find out when any of the phrases was used for the first time. There is a suggestion from some, for example, that a ‘Yap’ is the same bet but placed on the Tote. Given the fact that we’re talking about the very origin of phrases, it is perhaps not all that surprising that it is difficult to figure out when they might have been used for the first time.
Done as Innovator
The problem with people that work in industries like the betting industry is that it is very difficult to know how much of what they say is the truth and how much is likely to be some sort of bluster. In the case of Fred Done, we are able to compare what he says he’s done with what we know for a fact that he has done. Here is a list of some of the things that Done claims he was the first to do:
- Inventor of the Lucky 15
- First bookmaker to offer daily early price races
- Created the first ‘betting shop millionaire’
- First Bookmaker to pay out early on the Premier League title race
- First bookmaker to offer ‘Best Price’ Guarantee
- First bookmaker to payout on disqualified horses after stewards enquiries
- First bookmaker to offer odds of 610/1 for three correct numbers on the Irish Lotto
- First bookmaker to offer singles on football matches
- First bookmaker to go No Runner, No Bet on week of race bets for major races
As you can see, the list of things that Betfred claim they were the first to do is pretty comprehensive. Some of them are much more difficult to prove one way or another than others are. Can we say for certain that it was Done or someone else that came up with the Best Price Guarantee? Most bookies refer to that as the Best Odds Guarantee, so it is possible that Done simply did it by another name and claimed it as a ‘first’. Similarly, it is tricky to know whether Done or someone else paid out on disqualified horses for the first time.
It is also worth pointing out that being the first bookmaker to offer 610/1 for three correct numbers on the Irish Lotto might be impressive, but it’s just as possible that other bookies were offering 609/1 and without that context we don’t really know what it means. Regardless, the fact is that it is very difficult to know one way or another when it comes to the majority of the claims that Betfred has made over its ‘firsts’. If you want to be trusting, you can choose to believe that they would have no reason to lie about any of it.
The Truth We Know
What we can do to establish the likelihood of Done telling the truth is have a look at two very specific examples of things that Betfred are claiming they did for the first time: create the first ‘betting shop millionaire’ and became the first bookmaker to pay out early on the outcome of the Premier League title race.
The First Betting Shop Millionaire
The first thing that we need to do is investigate Betfred’s claim that the company was the first to pay £1 million or more to a betting shop customer. On the ‘History’ section of the company’s corporate website, it says, “ was also a very big year for one of Betfred’s customers who landed the ToteScoop6 to the glorious tune of £1,132,657 in one of our Salford shops, thus becoming the very first betting shop millionaire.” The key bit of information here is that the customer in question had won the ToteScoop6.
The ToteScoop6, of course, was linked to the Tote, so the customer could have placed it elsewhere and merely collected the bet at one of the Betfred shops in their area. There is nothing to say that the punter in question placed his bet at a Betfred store. The same is not true of Fred Craggs, who went into the William Hill store in Bedale in 2008 and placed a 50p bet on an eight-fold accumulator on horses taking part in races in Sandown Park, Nad Al Sheba, Warwick and Wolverhampton. The cumulative odds were close to 2.8 million/1.
William Hill had a limit of £1 million on such bets, so when all of the selections came in for Mr Craggs he had to make do with £1 million rather than the £2.8 million or so the bet was actually worth. Regardless, that is the first recorded instance of someone in the United Kingdom heading into a betting shop, placing a bet and winning £1 million or more without doing so as part of a wider promotion. In other words, Betfred’s claim is sort of true and is sort of not true, which you can judge for yourself.
The Premier League Early Payout
In 1998, Fred Done decided that his beloved Manchester United had the the title race with Arsenal all sewn up. There were two months of the season left to run when Done chose to make the payout, believing that the 11 point lead that the Red Devils had over the Gunners would be enough to see them over the line. That was in spite of the fact that Newcastle United had a 12 point lead over United the season before but lost out on the title. When United ‘whalloped Chelsea’, to use Done’s own words, he decided to pay out on bets on them to win the title.
He later said that it ‘wasn’t about publicity’, but was about letting punters know that the would do something different. Speaking on a TV show, he said it was the first time that he’d paid out early in 30 years of bookmaking but that United were ‘past the post’. Arsenal, though, had three points in hand won all of their games to pip the Red Devils to the title by a single point. Alex Ferguson warned Done never to do it again, but the bookie did just that in 2012 when he once again paid out on a United title win, only for City to win the title on goal difference.
So, Who Done’it?
Whether or not you think that Fred Done invented the Lucky 15 is, it is fair to say, a matter of individual choice. There is no corroborating evidence that we’ve been able to find to suggest that the Mancunian bookmaker was indeed the person who came up with the bet, but we also can’t say definitively that he didn’t. The most likely scenario is that he re-branded a bet known as a ‘Yap’ to make it more user-friendly, giving it a name that would encourage bettors to head to Betfred in order to place their wagers, rather than created an entirely new bet for the first time.
This is pretty much what happened as far as the company’s claim that they created the first ‘betting shop millionaire’ is concerned. In actuality, the person concerned had won a bet on the Tote that they got paid out on at a Betfred shop, rather than went into one of the Betfred shops and placed a winning bet that paid out £1 million. This might seem like semantics, but it is an important piece of evidence in trying to decipher whether or not Done is telling the truth with his claim that the Lucky 15 was his invention when, in all likelihood, it probably wasn’t.