Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The big bet is not who will be PM!


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London, July 3: In one of the store-front betting shops that are ubiquitous in London, a bookie howls with laughter when asked if anyone is placing bets on Thursday’s election.
It’s not that you can’t wager on politics. But the odds on the main event this year have become so lopsided that a wager on which party will control Parliament is a bad bet.
A gambler would have to put 100 pounds ($127) on the favoured Labour Party to pocket a pound coin in return. A pound bet on the ruling Conservatives would yield 30 times that – if they win. But the bookie wryly noted it would realistically mean throwing away a pound. Then she guffawed again.
In gambling-crazy Britain, politics is fair game for betting. The subject has received more attention than normal in this election because of a scandal revolving around what date the election would be set — one of the many gambling possibilities.
Tens of millions of pounds are expected to be wagered on this year’s election, but that will be dwarfed in the fall by the amount bet on the U.S. election. The presidential election in 2020 became the world’s biggest betting event on the Betfair Exchange, with 1.7 billion pounds wagered.
Punting on the pontiff and the prime minister, almost anything can be bet on in Britain. Punters, as bettors are known, wagered on the color of the hat Queen Elizabeth II wore to Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, the winner of reality shows such as Love Island and even the name of a future pope.
The U.K. is one of the few countries where political betting is legal and it dates to the mid-18th century, said Professor Anthony Pickles, a social anthropology professor at the University of Birmingham.
Unlike sports bettors that include people putting money on their favorite teams, political gamblers tend to be more strategic, said Leon Blackman, spokesperson for Oddsmaker.
“They take emotion out of it,” Blackman said.
“They’re not going to bet on the Green Party to win the election because they like the Green Party. They’re going to look for niche little angles, keep their ears to the ground as to what’s happening in the political world, and seeing if they can find that value, where they can make some money.” Stories abound of wild wagers that have paid off and some are still in play.
A cabbie in 1983 was so impressed after giving a lift to his new Labour member of Parliament that he drove to a bookmaker and placed a 10-pound bet he would one day be prime minister. Fourteen years later, George Elliot cashed in 5,000 pounds when Tony Blair became prime minister. (AP)


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