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Industry prepares for biggest ever betting on politics markets

Matt Shaddick, Head of Ladbrokes Politics, said that betting has “never really solved the problems around offering betting on constituencies” amid rumours of a UK snap election.

Speaking in ‘Rare Breed – Betting on Politics’, the first in SBC’s new fortnightly ‘Betting on Sports webinar series’, Shaddick admitted that the difficulty in pricing 650 markets right makes them a “gold mine for punters when they come around”.

He also stressed that odds on political markets should be taken as “probabilities not predictions”, referencing the bookie backlash after Donald Trump defied the odds to become the 45th President just a few months after the UK had unexpectedly voted to leave the EU.

Given that the bookmakers’ odds generally fall in line with the polls, those brave enough to take them on were handsomely rewarded. It was reported at the time that anyone that had a £5 treble on Leicester to win the Premier League, UK to vote for Brexit and Trump to win the US election could have pocketed over £12 million.

Steve Donoughue, Owner/CEO of GamblingConsultant.co.uk, agreed with Shaddick that odds around the biggest political markets are often misconstrued or “taken as a political headline”.

As an example, he said that ‘Corbinista’s’ could be encouraged to place a bet on him, in turn driving his odds down and creating an unrealistic perception of his chances.

Meanwhile, Sarbjit Bakhshi, Head of Politics at Smarkets, said that traders targeting political betting markets feed off uncertainty – something we are certainly seeing in the UK – as it “creates opportunities to make more money”. 

With regards to Boris Johnson, the hot favourite for number 10, Bakhshi underlined that bookmakers would be happy with a PM BOJO situation to drive ‘personality politics’.

He said: “We have seen that people react to this. At Smarkets, therefore, we have betting markets on what Trump and even Nigel Farage will get up to next. I’m sure that Boris will be the source of many markets.” 

The panelists also discussed the political landscape across the pond, with Shaddick predicting that the next presidential election will be the “biggest political market ever”.

He said that Ladbrokes is prepared for huge liabilities on Trump – a President that has “polarised opinion in a way no one ever has”. This is despite the fact that US incumbents are still unable to offer political betting markets post-PASPA.  

“Politics as a market is excluded at the moment by US legislators,” he explained. “However, it would be enormous if it was allowed; 2020 is not just a Presidential election as every state will host congressional, gubernatorial and senate races.” 

Finally, Shaddick also accepted an assertion from session moderator Ted Menmuir, Content Director at SBC, that political markets are the “last of its kind” from a trading point of view now that so much of the odds compiling is automated through algorithms.

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