A Guide to Betting on Politics
From general elections to Brexit, business tycoons taking over the White House to unlikely Prime Ministers forced into resignation, the subject of politics is rarely – if ever – out of the headlines. And whenever a field attracts so much public attention, you can be sure that our good friends the bookmakers will be only too happy to provide odds on the unfolding events.
Political betting is big business. So big that a number of major operators reported the turnover ahead of the 2020 US election to be greater than that of any major sporting event. A subject well worth taking a closer look at - particularly given the current situation in Britain.
UK Political Betting Markets
Many may be aware that odds are available on the winner of the next general election. However, that is but the tip of the iceberg on the political betting landscape. Taking a quick scan through the major bookmakers finds a huge array of betting options, including:
- Next Prime Minister
- Next Conservative Leader
- Next Labour Leader
- Year of Next General Election
- London Mayoral Election Leader
- Date of Next Scottish Referendum
US Political Betting
Those turning their attention stateside will find an equally diverse selection. An unlikely winner back in 2016, it is Donald Trump who once again heads the betting for the 2024 Presidential Election winner. Or for those who fancy an outsider to replicate Trump’s 100/1 success, how about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at 66/1 or Elon Musk at 200/1. You would think it could never happen, but then they said the same about Trump! In addition to that globally significant event, political betting fans can avail themselves of a whole host of options, with the following and more all on offer at the time of writing.
- House of Representatives Election Winner
- Next Florida Governor
- Texas Governor
- Democratic Candidate
- Republican Candidate
- Senate results for 25 individual states
Whilst the UK and US elections may only occur once every four years or so, there are many other democracies in the world. In any given year, chances are there will be a major vote going on somewhere. 2022 for example sees prices on offer for leadership elections in both Sweden and Denmark.
And as British natives need no reminding, elections aren’t the only Europe-related political issues at stake. Who can forget Brexit? At first, they said it couldn’t happen, and then it wouldn’t happen. Remain was in fact a strong favourite right through to the eve of the vote. But just as in sport, shocks can and do occur in the realms of the political world. Those able to accurately assess the mood of the voting public were able to land a tidy sum by backing Leave at rewarding odds. For those who believe the UK may have set a trend, odds are currently available on the next nation to leave the EU, with Italy, Poland, and Greece amongst the favourites.
Political Betting Strategies
Be it with the fixed odds firms, or the spread companies - ideally suited to such markets as number of seats or percentage of vote – there are a number of potentially profitable avenues to explore. As with all forms of betting, there is no substitute for putting in the work and doing your research, but for those considering dipping their toes into the political betting waters, the following is worth bearing in mind.
The Early Bird Catches The Worm
Oddsmakers tend to release prices well in advance of major events such as a general election, and a lot can change by the time voters eventually go to the polls. Latching on to unfolding trends early is therefore one of the key pieces of advice.
Using Trump as an example once more, those 100/1 odds didn’t last long as soon as it became apparent that the formerly tweet-happy president had huge support from within, and was targeting the key rust-belt swing states with his headline policies.
And from closer to home Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party was initially thought of as a legitimate threat to the Tories. Many shrewd political judges were however of the opinion that the nation as a whole would never get behind a man labelled a “doddering geography teacher” and that the Conservatives effectively had a free run at Downing Street. Sure enough, the odds on a Conservative victory dramatically plummeted prior to a landslide victory.
An Unbiased Approach
The key thing with latching on to these trends is that you must do so regardless of whether they align with your own personal political beliefs. A cool-headed approach is essential here, whilst you should also ensure that you take your information from a wide variety of sources.
In the UK for example The Times, The Sun and Daily Mail will invariably get behind the Conservatives, whilst The Guardian and The Mirror lean towards the Labour Party. Always bear in mind any potential bias – including poll results – when making your betting analysis.
A recommendation here is to place more weight on reports from politically neutral publications such as The Independent or Financial Times. In an attempt to get ahead of the crowd, social media can be the quickest source of information, but again always take into account the motives of those presenting the “facts”.
Support Underdogs in Smaller Markets
Huge shocks are rare in overall general elections. In the USA the White House will almost always fall to the Republican or Democratic candidate, whilst in the UK it is the Conservatives and Labour Party who dominate the scene. However, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be a surprise result in an individual seat.
The 2019 UK election for example saw the Social Democrats, Green Party and Alliance Party all win seats – in most cases causing a big shock to the candidates from the larger parties. Scaling down your approach to focus on specific seats may yield the occasional betting gem. Are there areas in which environmental issues are causing unrest? Then the Green Party may be well worth considering. Or perhaps the incumbent MP is embroiled in a scandal of some description. In which case siding with what is traditionally the second-largest party in the area could well pay off.
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