Tuesday 6 December 2016

Hearts flutter on election day betting

National polls are like sporting contests, and wily punters think so too

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 21/02/2016 | 14:00

'I'm not alone in finding the sporting side of the election to be the most interesting thing about it'
'I'm not alone in finding the sporting side of the election to be the most interesting thing about it'

I absolutely love general elections. That's because I regard them as sporting contests. They're kind of like a World Cup finals of politics, coming along every few years and giving the winners a chance to reign as champions till the next shindig. The verdict is final and the stakes are high.

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The actual campaign doesn't do much for me. It's kind of the group stages of the competition, a few weeks of jockeying for position to set us up for the big matches later on. The really good stuff drama-wise occurs when the counting begins. Now we're in the knock-out stages. That's why when someone wins, the celebrations which follow bear an uncanny resemblance to something you'd see after a last minute winner in a cup final.

And those ninth and tenth and eleventh counts in the dead of night as the transfers tell their tale? They're penalty shoot-outs. Look at the nerves on the faces of the players. Though of course the difference is that in an election it's the unsuccessful candidate rather than the ball who's getting kicked.

I'm not alone in finding the sporting side of the election to be the most interesting thing about it. According to Feilim Mac An Iomaire of Paddy Power, they should have taken around 25,000 bets by close of play, up 20 per cent on 2011. "As it only occurs every five years interest and turnover is high, it brings people out of the woodwork who might not bet on sporting events."

Mac An Iomaire reckons that the total betting on the election will be roughly equivalent to that on an All-Ireland football semi-final. It's not, as he says, the Grand National but it's pretty significant. Leon Blanche of Boylesports reckons that over the next week they'll take in the same amount as they will on Tuesday's Champions League matches which pit Arsenal against Barcelona and Juventus against Bayern Munich. He says that betting got off to a slow start due to the dullness of the campaign but has picked up since recent poll results have indicated a more unpredictable election than initially expected.

Current political reality is reflected in the fact that the most popular bet at Boyles has been on the make-up of the next government. In the last two weeks a Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition has been backed in from 15/8 to evens. Powers have also seen plenty of takers for this one. In January 2012 the FF/FG option was 8/1 and a punter from Kilkenny put €150 on it. With the odds now at 11/10 they must be a very happy man (or woman) right now.

The bookies have been caught on the hop by a couple of election developments. Mac An Iomaire says that punters seized on what they perceived as a miscalculation of the number of female TDs who'd be elected. "We overestimated the impact of the gender quota and our original line of over/under 41 women TDs has turned out to be overly optimistic. Punters have taken every downward line we could throw up. And we now have over/under 30 women winning seats."

Boyles, on the other hand, may be caught out by Independent candidate Michael Harty in Clare. Available at 4/1 on January 23 he's now 1/8 to win a seat there.

Both firms, like many before them, seem fated to pay the price for under-estimating the power of the Healy Raes. Danny was initially available at 8/1 with Paddy Power but his odds have now tumbled to 1/8 and they're on the hook for a five figure pay-out if he makes it. The entry of Healy Rae number two into the race resulted in what Blanche describes as, "a frenzy of betting," making Kerry Boyles' busiest constituency as there has also been interest in Brendan Griffin (FG), John Brassil (FF), Martin Ferris (SF) and Arthur Spring (Labour) who are fighting for the final two seats there. Galway West has been Powers' busiest area with only one cert, Eamon O'Cuiv, and seven strong candidates fighting it out for the other four seats.

Tipperary, which is very similar with Michael Lowry set to cruise home and as many as eight contenders for the other four seats, has been surprisingly quiet for Boylesports, perhaps because it's been difficult for punters to get a handle on a confused situation. Powers' deadest constituency is the polar opposite, Laois where the top two are 1/100, the third is 1/9 and there are only six candidates in total.

One other interesting straw in the wind. There's been a lot of money placed at Boyles on there being a second election this year. In the last two weeks the odds have dropped from 11/2 to 7/4. Who knows? The politicians and the voters might not be too keen on another election but the bookies would love it. You can put your shirt on that. I'd quite fancy one myself come to think of it.

Sunday Indo Sport

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