Betting on politics

Betting on politics

The current stay-at-home lockdown and our hunger for news updates has turned a whole new group of people into household names, and the betting industry has not been left behind.

With precious little live sport to bet on, bookmakers have had to become a little more imaginative, promoting markets for esports, professional home darts, online FIFA tournaments played by house-bound professionals - and last but not least, politics.

Arguably the best live action we’re getting on a Saturday afternoons and midweek evenings is the daily briefings from the government task force, so out go Ben Stokes, Harry Kane and Lewis Hamilton, and in come Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab and Chris Whitty, not to mention Boris Johnson making his long-awaited comeback after being on the political sidelines with Covid-19.

Johnson has only been in power for four months, but there’s always a betting market for who will be his successor.The political markets are fluctuating all the time as contenders’ popularity ebbs and flows. So, while William Hill’s price of 40/1 against Pritti Patel getting the keys to 10 Downing Street might look justifiably long right now, that might seem like a giveaway price if the political landscape were to shift in her favour somewhere down the line. Conversely, a more sensible bet right now might be the 7/2 on offer for Rishi Sunak, who has impressed many with the way he has coped with being thrown in at the deep end as Chancellor of the Exchequer at such a volatile time. Newly elected Labour leader Keir Starmer is 5/2 right now, which suggests that is also the price available on Labour to oust the Tories from their side of the House.

Across the pond, the forthcoming US Presidential election in November is likely to be the biggest political event of this year, and with Donald Trump’s approval rating on the slide, there is currently little to choose between him (10/11 with William Hill) and Democrat rival Joe Biden (11/10). Andrew Cuomo would surely have been much shorter than his current price of 33/1, had he not made it clear that he is not interested in compromising his responsibility as New York Governor with speculation of a presidential campaign.

Of course,  Mr Trump has never been one to shy away from the limelight, so he’d probably bask in the fact that Paddy Power have given him a betting market all to himself with a whole section dedicated to Trump Specials. So, you know where to go if you fancy a couple of quid on him having a US Navy ship named after him (7/1), winning the Nobel Peace Prize before the end of his first term (12/1), converting to Islam (150/1), or dying his hair red, white and blue (200/1). They might seem crazy fun bets, but arguably no stranger or funnier than Trump’s elevation to POTUS in the first place.

Clearly, there is a cautionary balance to be drawn when betting on politics, as the fluid nature of events over a period of time can have a profound effect on the market, just like ante-post horse race betting.

But of course, that is what helps make it so intriguing.