While perhaps not as exciting or immediate as the always popular football betting, the political betting market is nonetheless an engaging world of sharp odds and cut-throat gambling. With the advent of online betting, social media and a global rejuvenation of democratic process, there has never been a better time to take part in a political wager.
Betting on the succession of rulers is nothing new. According to The New Statesman, historian Stephen Alford documented merchants betting on the succession of King Edward VI when he was dying in 1553. There were also wagers placed as to whether King George II would survive his campaign in Dettigen, which despite odds of 4/1 against, he did.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, stock traders and bankers from London to Wall Street were betting on the political results of their own countries. In the early 1960s, when the gambling market was made readily available in Great Britain, it was seen as heavily influential on the outcome of the Conservative leadership campaign, eventually won by Lord Home with odds of 5/1. Labour politician and Zionist Ian Mikardo was quoted in The Guardian as saying,
“The Tories have dragged the premiership down to the level of the Donkey Derby.”
This was later seen as somewhat ironic, when Mikardo was revealed to be an unofficial bookmaker for the House of Commons. Needless to say, the political betting became something of a mainstay in British culture, as it did in many other parts of the world.
Despite the huge sums of money donated to political parties, the market remains one of the most unpredictable, therefore allowing bookmakers to offer better odds and punters to potentially win more.
Unlike sporting events or tournaments, which are over in a few hours, days or weeks, political betting is a long game, with many bets made months or sometimes even years in advance of the result. The closer Election Day comes, the more informed bookmakers are by various pundits and polls, and so the odds drop.
Political bets range from general punts to very specific wagers. Gamblers can bet on which party will win overall, or choose to narrow their focus to specific areas or regions, and bet which party will succeed locally. In the event that there is be a coalition government, they can bet on which particular leader will be made Prime Minister.
As most democracies have a certain number of seats to fill, gamblers can bet on the specific numbers of seats that one party will win, or, if they're feeling very confident, the composition of the next government, guessing the exact split of the seats between all parties. They can also bet on the next leader of a specific party, if they believe that there will be a change in leadership following an election win or defeat.
Political betting is not restricted to politicians. Many bookmakers will take wagers on voter turnout, and which party received the most votes, which does not necessarily mean that they win. Nor is it restricted to general elections, but also mayoral elections and referendums as well.
The main area that potential punters may wish to focus on is how wide particular bookmakers make their political market. Some keep the focus on politics relevant to a specific country or countries, while others are all inclusive, allowing for betting in the political races of smaller countries. This is particularly advantageous to those with a worldwide knowledge of politics, as it will not be oversubscribed, and means that there will a constant stream of events on which to wager.
It also makes betting on politics all the more interesting. Until very recently the UK market was a two-horse race, and the US market still is, but further afield, especially in the Eurozone and the Asian market, there is often more than two strong parties vying for votes. This not only offers more betting options, but allows gamblers to bet on combinations on the formation of a coalition government.
"A passionate sports betting expert and journalist with over 15 years spent in the gambling industry."
Reviewer since June 2016