In the UK, 650 constituencies are contested at every general election – that's 112 more than the amount of electoral college votes in the United States. The prevalence of swing constituencies in the UK complicates things further: in the 2010 election, 200 MPs were elected by a margin of less than 10%. Equally, outcomes are subject to numerous variables like foreign affairs, economic shifts, TV debates and PR catastrophes.
So is it still possible to turn a healthy profit with general election betting? Luckily, viable strategies like those below can help maximise profits and minimise losses in even the most complex betting scenarios.
The main weapon in the general election betting arsenal is opinion polls – not because they always give an accurate prediction of where the vote will go, but because they are an excellent indicator of public sentiment. Between February 24th and 27th of 2015, for example, four YouGov surveys vacillated between a two-point Conservative lead and a one-point Labour lead, showing not just that it's close, but that there are small, consistent shifts you can track and harness in a betting strategy.
*Remember* | When it comes to poll data, thinking flexibly and creatively is far more important than making concrete predictions.
Experienced election forecasters often use polls as a basis for predictions, then factor in longstanding trends and developments from the bigger picture. Electoral Calculus and electionforecast.co.uk – both run by political and economic experts – are big on electoral geography (the behaviour of electorates in each region) and contemporary political trends.
The rise of the SNP in Scotland, the collapse (or not) of the Liberal Democrats, and potential usurpers from UKIP all feature in their analyses. Picking out trends like these can be crucial in predicting outcomes in marginal seats and identifying parties that could feature in a coalition government.
In 2015, most experts expected another coalition. As Bloomberg put it:
"There will be hobbled aspirants, each cajoling as many as seven smaller parties to give up their independence and prop up a minority or coalition government."
Since most UK general election betting is centered around the 'next government' market, this presents gamblers with something of a challenge. In March 2015, Winner Sports offered 9/2 odds on a Conservative majority government and 10/1 on a Labour majority, revealing the number crunchers at Winner HQ agreed the days of the two-horse race were over. The challenge is working out which parties will partake in a new collaboration.
For long odds, you could try predicting exact partnerships, like Labour and Lib Dems, or a repeat of the Conservative/Lib Dem partnership. But if you prefer a little flexibility in your bet, you may want to back any coalition involving a particular party, for example the SNP or UKIP.
If coalition partnerships feel too volatile to predict, there are ways to give yourself additional security. The first is picking a betting site that allows you to cash out, which affords savvy gamblers the chance to exit with a profit before the political pendulum swings again. Another option is to let bets ride, but back outcomes while they're long and then hedge if the odds shift. Arbitrage betting like this requires a larger outlay, but can be very effective when carefully controlled.
There are several political markets you may want to consider. The 'most seats' market typically gives roughly even odds on Tories or Labour, regardless of whether they land the coveted majority or not. Similarly, backing the next Prime Minister allows you to bet on the party leader you think will triumph, without speculating on the government they preside over. Both of these are a convenient way for gamblers to side-step the thorny coalition question entirely.
Those with a preference for specific bets with high potential payouts can find plenty more specials to have a punt on. Labour to poll fewer votes but win more seats than the Conservatives is an option at Coral Sports, and UKIP to win any Labour held seat at Ladbrokes Sports. So if you have a confident prediction, it pays to find a bookie that will take your bet.
For all the latest UK general election odds and markets, visit Winner Sports today!