Is there money to be made with general election betting?
As the old adage goes, I’m not one to repeat gossip so I’ll say it just the once. With politics though, you can share as much as you want. It’s encouraged really. And with the 56th General Election coming up on 7 May, you’re spoilt for choice with the media attention on who’ll be governing the UK.
Here’s what you need to know about the phenomenon that is online election betting
Betting online is damn fine
With so much interest, it’s not surprising that online betting has been going into overdrive. Political betting on who will be running the UK is rumoured to be around £100m and is one of the biggest non-sporting big hitters for British bookmakers. You don’t have to know who won the National or if Lewis Hamilton really is unbeatable on the track (Go Lewis!) to have a good chance of landing a winning political bet.
Rather than the temperament of the favourite or a car’s reliability, you are relying on your own interpretation of how the latest news has influenced voters across the UK. And unlike a reality show, you are judging not just on a sob story, a dancing dog or which celebrity you most want to walk on an upturned plug. The choices you make will influence your social and working life and your hard earned taxes.
Betting on the General Election is part of a continuing growing trend that really started with the 2010 election when around £25m was betted online. Since then the growth has continued through the 2012 American Presidential Election, the appointing of a new Pope in 2013 and the Scottish Referendum last year. Figures are expected to be three or four times higher than five years ago.
This will also be the first General Election to take place with such prominence on social media. Every little election related moment can be picked up and go viral within seconds. “The access of online is far easier,” says Rory Scott of Paddy Power, as one of the reasons why online political betting is growing so rapidly. “The amount of information available now with rolling news coverage is a huge factor. The punters have an edge more on the bookies and feel they have an inside track.”
Just like that goal that should never have stood (their striker was born offside!), it can all change in an instant, with an inspired decision or fatal error. Will there be that one definitive moment that swings the election one way or another? And if it does, will you be the one to benefit from it?
Food for thought
Led by the current Prime Minster David Cameron, the Conservatives are in the “don’t screw it up category”. Cameron may not have seemed keen to appear on the televised debate last week, but he is a recognised leader and made an appearance without any obvious slip ups. As revealed in their Manifesto earlier this week, there will be a strong focus on trying to get thousands of housing association tenants a year to take up on buying a housing association property. Conservative insiders were said to have been worried that the focus on leadership and improving the economy would not be sufficient. The latest developments have seen the Tories vow to double free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds and guarantee that workers on the minimum wage will never pay income tax.
How do you solve a problem like Ed Miliband? Unflatteringly compared to Wallace, his inability to eat a bacon sandwich while “looking normal” (probably just as well it wasn’t a cheese sandwich) and his regular struggle to match Cameron in Question Time has meant the main problem for Labour has been its very own leader. Quite simply, Miliband doesn’t have the confidence of the nation to be Prime Minister. However, Miliband performed well on the debate and his acknowledgement of his unflattering image in an interview with a rigorous Jeremy Paxman was a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see what actions are taken to continue improving his charm with voters, and let’s be honest, his own MPs.
Nigel Farage really is the Marmite man of politics. To his supporters, he is a man of the people, happy to have a pint in a local pub and unafraid of how his rivals see him. He is comfortable voicing inflammatory opinions like being anti-EU, anti-immigration, expanding the army reserve and privatising the NHS. To his opponents, he is drawing support from the far right, and represents a party who wants to raise the drawbridge on immigrants, betray the institution that is the NHS into an American style medical care system and refuses to agree to same sex marriage. Married to a German and with ancestors who fled to the UK to escape religious persecution he is seen as either a hypocrite or proof he is not a racist. Either way, Farage and Ukip will continue to cause controversy. In its manifesto, the party is aiming for a “low tax revolution” by raising around £30bn from leaving the EU, scrapping the HS2 high speed railway network, slashing foreign aid and giving less money to Scotland.
What ever happened to the Liberal Democrats? Fronted by Nick Clegg, it seems that people have neither forgotten nor forgiven their promise not to raise tuition fees only for the coalition to increase them. Campaigning that they are “the only party standing up to Ukip” they believe they are defending the businesses that rely heavily on Europe. Plans also include spending cuts and tax changes to wipe out the budget deficit, as well as restricting access to non-dom status and extending free childcare for all two year olds for working families. The Liberal Democrats are hoping to be invited to the party as the junior partners in a possible coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour.
The Green Party has over 57,000 members and with a party record of 571 candidates, will contest over 90% of seats in England and Wales. They are headed by Natalie Bennett, who had the worst car crash moment of the election campaign so far, with an excruciatingly poor radio interview with LBC last month. Honestly, unless you’re a fan you’ll struggle to keep a straight face. Currently their only seat is held by Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. However, in their Manifesto, they have set out to highlight a new 60% rate of income tax and a 10% cut in public transport fares. Keeping to their environmental heartbeat, they are also looking to create jobs by insulating cold homes and keeping climate emissions down.
May the force be with you
With no voting permitted until 7 May, it really is building to an exciting climax. The latest polls show there is nothing much to split between the top two parties. The ICM Wisdom Index shows the Conservatives at 31.8, Labour at 31.7, the Liberal Democrats at 13.5 and 12.7 for Ukip. The Opinium Observer Poll has the Conservatives at 36, Labour at 34, Ukip at 11, the Liberal Democrats at 7 and the Green Party at 6.
In terms of who will gather the most seats, Paddy Power has the Conservatives as major favourites at 4/7, with Labour at 11/8 and Ukip at 100/1. The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have equally long odds of 500/1.
If you aren’t confident of an overall majority government, William Hill is offering 1/6. If you feel there will be one, you will want to take them up on their odds of 5/1 for a Conservative majority or 16/1 for a Labour majority, stretching to Ukip at 100/1 and Liberal Democrats at 500/1.
Ladbrokes is speculating who the next Prime Minster will be. Ed Miliband stands at 5/6, Boris Johnson at 5/1 and George Osborne and Theresa May at 14/1 are strong shouts that might interest you. If you feel confident that one of the latter three might be the next leader of the Conservatives, Johnson is at 9/4, May at 7/2 or Osborne at 7/1.
Paddy Power to the people
Paddy Power have 32 betting markets regarding the election, including the number of Conservatives to lose their seat, how many seats the Green Party will get and the result of an EU member referendum. If you think that Ukip will fail to win at least 5% of the vote, Ladbrokes is offering 20/1.
Paddy Power has the SNP as 1/16 to gain most seats on Scotland but if you think there might be an upset you can get Labour at 6/1. The growth of female representation in politics hasn’t gone unnoticed either, with possibilities for betting on whether a female will be the next Home Secretary, Deputy Prime Minster, Chancellor or Prime Minister.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Paddy Power say that Farage is the most heavily bet seat in the election. It’s not just any leader that will be photographed with a tank after all. “The polls and odds are two separate things,” says Scott, who also makes the wider point that all the main leaders are having to hold on tight to their seats. “The polls are showing it more neck and neck, while our punters think all of Farage’s press coverage will help and are taking him at any price.”
Don’t forget to dip your head
There have already been a separate question and answer for David Cameron and Ed Miliband, and a televised debate between the seven party leaders, but there’s plenty still to come. On 16 April there will be a BBC debate between five opposition party leaders; while there will be a special BBC Question Time with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.
There will be further discussion on the manifestos by each of the parties, and further speculation on the role of SNPs, especially as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out a second Scottish Referendum within five years.
As the finishing approaches and the five parties become more eager for your votes, you will definitely want to be your phone or computer. It may well be a photo finish.