Betting on the first Moon Landing

I recently came across an interesting story that involves both William Hill and the first Moon Landing. William Hill is a bookmaker based in London and has been around since 1934 providing both betting shops and online gambling. In a recent edition of Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine, there was an article about a science fiction enthusiast who placed a wager in 1964 on the success of the first moon landing. After further research I realized that as an aviation enthusiast and online gambler myself, I had to share this story with my fellow players.

Many of us remember or have seen President Kennedy’s speech on landing on the moon and returning a man safely within the decade (1960s). For many scientists it was an impossible task, for others it was a challenge and call to arms to beat the Russians in the highly politicized Space Race. For the average person who was not involved in the Apollo program, it was something out of science fiction books, but for David Threlfall it was an opportunity to make some money on an unusual bet.

In March of 1964, Mr. Threlfall approached the bookmaker William Hill with a request to make a bet of £10 that a man would step foot on the moon before January 1, 1970. The generous terms of 1,000 to 1 were agreed upon with the contract stating …… “a man, woman or child from any nation on Earth being on the moon or any other planet, star or heavenly body of comparable distance from the Earth before January 1971.”

As word got out about the bet, the odds took a nose dive and never achieved the favorable terms of 1,000 to 1. Of course, as they say “the rest is history” and Mr. Threlfall received his check for £10,000 which is the equivalent of £154,000 in 2017 when Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the Moon in July of 1969. If you’re a Moon Landing conspirator, you probably think that William Hill was fleeced out of £10,000 and any other bets which they had to pay out from the Apollo 11 success. No matter what your opinions are on the Moon Landings, it’s a great story and a perfect example that people will bet on anything.


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