Political betting is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to find accurate predictions on the outcome s of big events. In fact, it’s the best way.
Political betting is a relatively new phenomenon, a product of the internet and mobile betting age. Punters can place wagers on everything from how many seats each party will win in upcoming elections to which Republican will get the nomination in the 2016 presidential election.
Glancing at popular online bookmaker Paddy Power the most popular options to bet on politics in the UK are the “Government after Election” and “Next Prime Minister after Cameron.” What are the oddsmakers saying? Ed Miliband’s chances of winning the premiership are listed at 4/5. You can also bet on the next mayor of New York and a myriad of other lines.
Because so much money is at stake, political oddsmakers have to know their stuff. And they’re extremely accurate at predicting upcoming events in the world of politics. Let’s take a look through some of their past and future predictions.
The referendum in Scotland
• Oddsmakers correctly predicted the outcomes of recent Presidential elections and of the recent Scottish referendum
• Paddy Power is predicting Ed Miliband to be the UK’s next Prime Minister
• Bookies expect Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the US
Being an American myself, I didn’t take talk of the Scottish referendum as seriously as I should have. I mean, I knew that Scots feel increasingly unrepresented in London, but I never expected so many people to feel that they had more to gain by leaving the UK.
As we know now, the Scots voted to stay in, but by a slim margin (55 percent to 45 percent). Prior to the voting online sportsbooks in the UK had predicted a “No” vote from the Scots, and they got it. The Guardian reported that at Betfair 80 percent of bettors put their money on a no-vote. The only thing bookies got wrong was the margin of difference; predicted to be 4 percent it ended up at 10.
In this case, political oddsmakers (and the majority of bettors) accurately predicted the outcome beforehand.
The 2016 presidential election
Oddsmakers correctly predicted that Barack Obama would win in both 2008 and 2012. To be honest almost everyone in politics predicted the same outcomes (especially in 2012), but when you’re right, you’re right.
What are they saying about the 2016 elections? Hillary, Hillary, and Hillary. Paddy Power is giving her 4/5 odds of making it three terms in a row for the Democrats, something that hasn’t been done since the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Basically, it looks like if Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination, she will beat whichever Republican rises to the challenge, whether that be Chris Christie (10/1), Marco Rubio (11/1), Rand Paul (12/1) or Jeb Bush (12/1). The only other Democrat with decent odds is Senator Elizabeth Warren (14/1).
Things will probably look a lot different two years from now on the eve of the actual election, but if recent history is any indication then give the bookmakers the benefit of the doubt.
Britain’s next government
Expect odds on this one to be more accurate because the election will be held fairly soon, on May 7th, 2015 to be exact. Bookies are predicting Labour lead in most seats held following the election with odds of 8/11. The Conservatives aren’t far behind at 11/10, and surprisingly (for me at least) the UKIP is in the mix at 66/1. The seemingly defunct Liberal Democrats are out in the wilderness at 200/1.
But while you can safely expect Labour to take the most seats, odds on “overall majority” are much less clear. Paddy Power has 6/5 odds that there will be “no overall majority” followed by a Labour majority at 7/4 and a Conservative majority at 3/1.
Granted that Labour wins with a plurality and needs to build a coalition to form a government, whom will they build a coalition with? There now-opponents the Lib Dems, who seem to be as irrelevant as ever? We know that UKIP is out of the picture. Britons might be in for some messy politics next spring.
Why we should listen to political oddsmakers
There are thousands of political pundits out there on both sides of Atlantic, and most of them are blabbering endlessly about things they know (and care) very little about. Oddsmakers have all of the same information at their disposal but have much of an incentive to predict things accurately, because large piles of money are at stake.
The political experts are major bookies like Paddy Power, Bet365, BetVictor and William Hill have also shown a stunningly impressive record for predicting things right. At least on all of the major US and UK events of past decade the big bookies have predicted things accurately.
Political oddsmakers also play a socially beneficial role, albeit one which they get little credit for. When people wager money on the outcome of an event they are much more likely to attempt to influence it. What I mean is, when people in Scotland or England put money down on a “No” vote in the referendum, they had a personal interest in getting out and voting “No.” It’s an interesting but effective way to get people to participate.
Political betting is legal across Britain while it is prohibited by American gambling laws. Legalizing it may indirectly benefit the political situation on that side of the pond.