LONDON Want a flutter on Greece leaving the euro zone? It may already be too late. A surge in bets has forced Britain's biggest bookmakers William Hill Plc and Ladbrokes Plc to suspend betting on the odds of Greece dropping out.
The failure of Greece's leaders to form a government has renewed speculation that Greece could be forced out of the single currency.
William Hill said the level of betting on Greece quitting first was such that it had become too risky to continue taking bets, with the odds pushed right down to 1/4.
"We've had Greece as hot favourites for some time but increasingly it was becoming the only one that people wanted to bet on," said a spokesman for William Hill, Britain's largest betting firm.
"It wasn't a healthy situation for bookmakers. We found it was virtually impossible to make a book."
Britain's second-biggest betting firm Ladbrokes said it had suspended betting on Greece dropping out of the euro zone by the end of the year, after repeatedly slashing the odds.
"It is safer for us to suspend betting than to keep cutting the odds," a spokesman for Ladbrokes said. "We have been slashing the odds repeatedly over the last few days."
Ladbrokes is still taking bets on the Greek stock market losing more than 25 percent of its value in a single day's trading by the end of 2012.
And if you fear Greece is just the beginning of the end for the European single currency, Ladbrokes is offering odds on the euro ceasing to exist by the end of 2012, which would make punters 33 times their original stake.
Ladbrokes is offering odds of 5/6 that the euro will cease to exist by the end of 2015 and 4/1 on two or more states to leave the euro by the end of the year.
William Hill, however, has closed betting on the euro still being in existence by the end of 2015 - a possibility it sees as closely linked to what is happening in Greece - with the latest odds before suspension at 4/6 in favour and 11/10 against.
Once the situation in Greece has become less volatile, the bookmakers says it will look to reopen the market.
(Writing by Rhys Jones and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Janet McBride and David Holmes)