People love the idea of April Fools’ Day. The chance to get one over on a friend or relative is often too much to resist, with some genuinely brilliant pranks having been pulled by people over the years that others then try to emulate or better. It can sometimes be a little bit cringeworthy when companies and corporations get involved in the act, doing things that are blatantly just for the publicity. Numerous bookmakers have tried over the years, with some enjoying more success than others depending on the ‘joke’ they went for.
Of course, virtually everyone knows about and understand April Fools’ Day, so most people have their guard up when it rolls around. Indeed, such is the extent to which people expect to be tricked, most will check the calendar when something stupid happens to see whether or not they could be being pranked somehow. The idea of getting caught out is one that most people are uncomfortable with, but being caught out by a bookie is somehow even more annoying. We want to catch them out, not the other way around, but here’s a look at some times they’ve pulled it off.
There are all sorts of reasons why a company might decide to try to pull off an April Fools’ prank. Whether it be that they’re actually trying to get you to bet on something specific or they just want to flag up the fact that they have started sponsoring an event, companies will often use April Fools’ Day as the chance to get their product into the public’s imagination. In the case of gambling businesses, there are all sorts of benefits associated with a good April Fools’ gag, but getting it right is tricky.
As you’ll see, some of the betting companies have pitched things perfectly, whilst others seemingly decided to do something a bit mad just for attention. Whatever else this piece might teach you, it should ensure that you’re a bit sceptical any time a betting company makes an announcement on the first day of April. Here is a look at the best, and the worst, of an interesting genre:
Stan James Re-Naming the Guineas to the 2,331 Euros
Back in 2010, anti-European Union fervour was not at a point that most people even considered it to be a thing in the United Kingdom. The Brexit referendum was still six years away, with most of the conversation around the EU taking place on the back benches of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Even so, the European Union had passed a few laws that looked to change some minor aspect of life in Britain. Between 1990 and 2017, more than 50,000 EU laws had been introduced to the UK, with most passing unnoticed.
It was via this path that Stan James, the now defunct bookmaker, attempted to trick people into believing their April Fools’ joke back in 2010. News emerged that the European Union was demanding that the name of two of British racing’s Classics change their name in order to fit in with EU rules. The idea was that the 2,000 Guineas should become the 2,331 Euros, but it was a joke that largely fell flat for most racing fans. This is in spite of the fact that the story was bolstered by ‘quotes’ from numerous people involved.
The ‘Austrian MEP’ Lari Polof, which is an anagram of April Fool, had reportedly cited EU currency legislation when calling for the races to be renamed so as to ‘re-standardise the currency to prevent confusion among EU citizens’. A spokesperson for Stan James, who sponsored the races at the time, said: “This has thrown preparations for the race into complete disarray and both the Newmarket executive and ourselves are livid at this latest petty EU bureaucracy.” He also mentioned how the race commentators would need to be ‘on their toes’ when the races took place, ‘in case the exchange rate alters’.
Paddy Power Allowed Bets on Seahorse Racing
In 2017, Paddy Power was reportedly ready to start allowing people to place bets on seahorse races. The new ‘equine-aquatic sport’ promised to take things to ‘new depths’ in terms of entertainment and sports betting. Offering ‘all the excitement of horse racing’ but moving it under the water, seahorse racing had been ‘five years in the making’, according to the press release. They even had an interview with Ruby Walsh to talk about it, even though the Irishman was ‘a few inches too tall to jump on the back of one of the weird creatures’.
A spokesperson from Paddy Power’s ‘Product Development Department’ said, “It’s been an amazing journey and we’ve learned that Seahorse behaviour mirrors that of their above-water equine counterparts. Despite initial challenges with training we’ve found them to be one of the most competitive species on the planet. We think our customers will love it.” As for ‘Paddy’, he suggested that the idea would be ‘sink or swim’, saying, “The little blighters are tough to train and their tiny saddles keeping falling off but I reckon we’ve backed a winner.”
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) April 1, 2017
The whole thing was a nonsense, of course, with Paddy Power releasing a tweet at 12.04pm stating as much. The tweet also encouraged people to place a bet on the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster Racecourse, which was taking place later that day. In the end, it was won by Bravery with odds of 20/1, though they were 16/1 when Paddy Power’s tweet was initially sent out. Far from the best joke that a bookmaker has produced over the years, it did at least trick some people who said, “These animals are delicate as they are precious!”
Betfair’s Release of ‘RoboRef’
Back in 2014, the idea of a Video Assistant Referee was little more than a pipe dream. Its use wouldn’t be written in the laws of the game by the International Football Association Board for another eight years, so we wouldn’t need to be thinking about phrases like ‘clear and obvious error’ for some time. You could say that Betfair were ahead of the curve with the April Fools’ joke that they tried to pull that year, therefore, given that it centred around the release of an automated referee known as ‘RoboRef’, complete with 360 degree vision.
Enlisting the help of former footballer Mark Bright and Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher, the video explaining what RoboRef could do informed viewers that he was installed with ‘groundbreaking new technology’. CARDS, an acronym for Calibrated Animatronic Refereeing Decision’, would allow RoboRef to get the decision right every time. Gallagher, not understand that unique means ‘one of a kind’ and something cannot therefore be ‘quite unique’, repeatedly called RoboRef exactly that during the launch video.
Not that Gallagher can be blamed, of course. He could barely get refereeing decisions correct when he was on the pitch so it’s hardly a surprise that he struggled with talking about something that was going to take over his job. Sadly, it was nothing more than a slightly weird April Fools’ joke and instead of a referee that got everything right, we continue to put up with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited’s countless horrendous errors and lack of accountability. That, in truth, feels like one long joke.
When Mecca Opened a Bingo Club for Cats
If we’re honest, some of the April Fools’ jokes that have been attempted over the years have at least had the outside chance of being realistic. Whilst RoboRef was nonsense, the truth is that automated offside calls are likely to be introduced in the near future. Equally, it isn’t exactly beyond the realms of the possible that Paddy Power finds a way to allow punters to bet on something like seahorse racing, given we can bet on virtually everything else. So quite why Mecca Bingo decided to try to fool people into think that cat bingo would be a thing is questionable.
— Mecca (@MeccaBingo) April 1, 2015
It came about thanks to a tweet from the company on the first of April 2015, alongside a photo of some cats seemingly holding onto their bingo tickets. The photo featured the tagline ‘I’m Feline Lucky’, which appeared to be the entire reasoning behind the joke. Given that bingo has worked hard to move away from the idea of it being a game for crazy women who live alone, associating it with cats and the ‘crazy cat lady’ link was an odd choice to make. The fact that it received just four retweets and one like suggests that others agree.
Fred Done Entered the Snooker World Championship Qualifiers
For some reason, 2015 must have been the year for weird tweets from gambling companies offering not very funny April Fools’ jokes. Following on from Mecca Bingo seemingly referencing crazy cat ladies as bingo players, Betfred attempted to convince the world that the boss, Fred Done, would be entering the World Championship of snooker at the qualifying stage. Though the tweet about the matter was released on the first of April 2015 at 8.54am, the reasoning behind it was much more corporate than just a joke.
— Betfred (@Betfred) April 1, 2015
In mid-March, World Snooker had confirmed that Betfred would be taking on the responsibility of being the main sponsor for the Championship for at least two years. They had previously sponsored the tournament from 2009 until 2012, so the move signalled a return to the role that they had already occupied. As a result, there was a desire from the company to drum up some more interest about their sponsorship deal, so the April Fools’ joke tweet, complete with a picture of Done looking like a snooker player, seemed like the perfect ploy.