Wednesday 29 January 2020

Bookies onto a winner in election game

The transformation of our world into one vast betting office is now virtually complete, writes Declan Lynch

Forget about your opinion polls and your punditry. If you want to know the Truth about who's going to win an election, and who's going to lose, these days you go to the bookies.

Prime Time clearly understands this, with Tommie Gorman talking to a lady from Ladbrokes in the course of a piece he was doing about the various electoral contests in the North. To some this would be the "fun" part of the report, to the cognoscenti it was the business end.

When the lady from Ladbrokes started giving out the odds, then, and only then, did we know that we were in the blinding presence of the Truth.

"Jim Allister's been on the drift this week, and is now second favourite at 9/4," she explained, pricing up the race in North Antrim. "Ian Paisley Jnr is 1/3," she said, with a note of finality.

So Paisley will almost certainly win in North Antrim, and an investment in him will yield an immediate return of 33-and-a-third per cent. You won't get better than that on the Dow, any time soon.

Meanwhile in South Antrim, will Reg Empey unseat the DUP's Rev William McCrea? "McCrea has an even money chance to hold to the seat but Reg Empey is the strong 8/11 favourite," she declared. Which isn't that strong, actually, which suggests that you mightn't go too far wrong by making a modest investment in the slight outsider McCrea.

There is also a most intriguing market developing in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, "orange against green" as Tommie called it.

"We're finding this market very difficult to split," said the lady from Ladbrokes. "Rodney Connor (Unionist) has a 5/6 chance, and in fact Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Fein) is priced at 5/6 as well. This has been very heavily backed . . ."

Indeed we may extrapolate further from those odds, based on the knowledge that the "green" side loves a punt, and for superstitious reasons which are never too far from the surface in those parts, they would tend to favour Gildernew.

Which suggests to the astute reader of the market that Gildernew may be under-priced here, due to her carrying the unnatural weight of the "green" pound. Then again, in their supremely twisted way, maybe all those "greens" in Fermanagh/South Tyrone know that the game is up, and are actually backing Connor on the quiet. Methinks the wise punters -- the "shrewdies" -- will be keeping their powder dry for this one.

So the transformation of our world into one vast betting office is now virtually complete, though for official purposes, politics likes to regard itself as something other than just another sport on which the punters can speculate.

For unofficial purposes, and especially for the purposes of betting -- which is all that matters really -- you can now see politics listed alphabetically as a sport which comes somewhere between Ice Hockey and Rugby League.

A sport which provides us with only a few games during the year, by comparison with the more popular attractions such as greyhound racing or the American Football, but a sport nonetheless, from which there is money to be made.

Again, in this, the bookies have called it just about right. And typically it is the online betting which is taking this to its logical conclusion. Because in the British general election you can now bet on the Leaders' Debates "in running".

For the uninitiated, the "in running" markets simply mean that you can have a bet on an event while it is in progress.

At its most frenzied level, it can involve betting on a horse race after the race has started, perhaps even as they are jumping the final fence, with the prices changing constantly, depending on how your horse is going.

At a more leisurely level, it can involve betting on a football match at half-time -- interestingly, the Leaders' Debates last for 90 minutes, just like a football match.

So you can "watch" the debate in-running, without needing to watch it on TV, or listen to the bullshit. You just get on to the website of your online betting provider, and you follow the changing prices -- Cleggy drifts from Evens to 6/4, perhaps due to a surprise attack by Brownie, or maybe a strong display of body language from Cameronsy. The reason is immaterial, all that matters is the Truth, which is that Cleggy is drifting, so he's probably not going to win this one.

Alternatively you may wish to waste your time watching the boys on Spin Alley picking the bones out of it, but if you really want to know who's winning and who's losing, and by how much, there is only one place you need to go.

And apart from all these novelty bets, they're branching out into the most compelling issues of our time, such as whether the next celebrity philanderer to be exposed will be a footballer, a TV personality, a singer -- the footballer is clear favourite.

They are moving inexorably towards betting on the outcome of murder trials, a market which may be open to manipulation by jurors, who have inside knowledge and can influence the result to their own benefit.

No doubt this will raise certain ethical questions -- but believe me when I say, they will find a way.

Sunday Independent

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