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What Is Political Betting?

Political betting is a specific type of betting, dependent on the outcome of political elections, party changes and legal decisions. In the UK, emphasis on political betting is placed on the general election, changes to the main political parties (Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP) and current political figures (i.e. David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Theresa May, Boris Johnson).

Odds are calculated frequently using opinion polls and previous election data and major bookmakers such as William Hill and Paddy Power allow people to place both large and small political bets throughout the year. Find out more about political betting in this comprehensive guide.

Worldwide Political Betting

Political betting is not just limited to the UK and Irish political climate. World politics also come into play, with popular political bet scenarios available in the Australian, European and US markets. In the UK, gambling laws and regulations dictate that all punters must be aged 18 or over. No prior political knowledge or understanding is required, but many repeat gamblers prefer to make informed decisions when betting, paying attention to recent trends, news reports and opinion polls.

UK General Election Betting

One of the highlights of the political betting calendar in the UK is the general election. The next general election taking place in the UK is on 7th May 2015 with the 3 most likely candidates being David Cameron for the Conservative Party, Ed Milliband for Labour and Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats. The most popular punt during the run-up to the election is on the succeeding party/leader.

Odds will fluctuate depending on the outcome of local elections and polls reported in newspapers. Another greatly anticipated event is the series of live television debates, a recent addition to the British political scene that bears strong resemblance to the United States’ fondness for glamorising the drama of politics.

How and Where To Place A Political Bet

All bookmakers, also known as ‘bookies’, in the UK must be licensed. The ‘Big Three’ bookies in British gambling market are Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes, each of which has hundreds of outlets across the country and buoyant online businesses. Betfair, the world’s largest online betting agent, is based in London, England, and accepts a range of political bets. The official Betfair website hosts a selection of political news updates and betting tips for interested parties. PaddyPower, WIlliam Hill and Ladbrokes have similar systems.

Placing a political bet is no different to making any other type of bet at a bookmaker or online. In the betting shop, simply help yourself to a betting slip, fill it in with your bet amount and details and hand it to the cashier. If you’re new to betting, simply ask for help and odds information. When betting online, you will see an updated list of political bet odds before placing a bet. Some sites will also help you calculate your potential winnings based on the current odds.

Political Betting Winner’s Tips

Is there a skill to winning big when it comes to political betting, or is it still a game of random chance? The pros say it’s a little bit of both. In his book titled “The Political Punter: How to make money betting on politics”, former BBC news journalist Mike Smithson promises to make beginner’s into money-making experts by learning the ropes of political betting and how to make informed decisions on upcoming political outcomes.

There’s plenty that can be learned without purchasing a single textbook, however. Here’s our guide to becoming a political betting winner:

1. Read. Read. Read. If you keep your head in the sand, you’ll miss out on the latest political developments that not only affect the outcome of your bets, but also the bookies’ odds. Bookmark the most updated political news sources on the web – start with the BBC, Guardian, Independent and Telegraph. Remember that each news publication will have its own political slant, obscuring important voting statistics.

2. Get social. Major social networks like Twitter and Facebook are great snapshots of public opinion. Search for trending political topics whenever possible, especially in the run-up to an election.

3. Statistics don’t lie. Parliment.uk is your official source of UK election data, including European elections, local elections and bill progression. Get familiar with the interface and start compiling some statistics on your chosen area of political interest.

4. Key figures. When it comes to election outcomes, the personal lives of key political figures have a major effect on voters. Keep an eye on widely circulated newspapers like the Daily Mail and social networks like Twitter to find out how key figures are being represented in the media, and how the public is responding.

5. Leave your affiliations at the door. If you’re serious about political betting and developing a winning strategy, you’re going to want to leave your existing political affiliations out of the equation. Have strong political beliefs is likely to cloud your judgment when it comes to playing the odds. If, however, you’re betting for pleasure, follow your instincts and have fun with it.

Can You Really Predict Political Outcomes?

According to some statisticians, political betting is so enjoyable because it is the most human betting scenario, making predictions simultaneously easy and difficult. With sporting bets, the outcome is often decided by the performance of just a few people or even animals (e.g. 11 members of a football team, or a single horse).

Other bets, for example a bet placed on whether it will be a white Christmas, depend on arbitrary factors that cannot be controlled by humans. With political betting, outcomes are influenced by so many factors, from your very own opinions to vast media campaigns, scandals, mishaps and impressive speeches. Research has shown on a number of occasions that it is entirely within the realm of possibility to successfully predict the outcome of a general election.

One such example comes from the US: statistician and writer Nate Silver developed a comprehensive quantitative method to predict the outcome of the 2008 US Presidential Election with amazing accuracy. Having previously worked in baseball, predicting match outcomes using player stats, Silver’s success reminds us of the hit Brad Pitt vehicle Moneyball.

In the film, based on the real story of Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane, the flailing team uses a sophisticated method of statistical analysis to put together a winning baseball team on a tiny budget. The approach led to a winning streak of 20 consecutive matches for the team.

In light of these statistical achievements, the UK political climate is not impervious to successful predictions, but interested candidates will need to dedicate significant time to data collection and analysis in order to make it a worthwhile task. Mike Smithson’s political blog, PoliticalBetting.com, is a good place to start for anyone interested in taking a closer look at UK political statistical analysis.

What Can I Bet On?

The short answer to this question is: everything. Where there are people with money to bet, the bookies will calculate whatever odds are required to bring that money in. In the realm of political betting, everything is fair game. Bets can be very general (i.e. who will be the next Prime Minister) or specific (such as the number of seats a party wins). You can bet on positive or negative outcomes, including scenarios such as whether a politician will remain in their role until a certain date, or if the UK will leave the EU by a certain year. If you prefer the mathematical approach to betting, try to opt for an area that you can become an expert in, such as one political party, or European issues.

What Makes Political Betting Different?

The motivations behind political betting are similar to those encouraging sporting event bets, but remain distinct in a few key ways. Most notably, in the case of election result betting, the punters have a small part to play in the event’s outcome (i.e. they can also vote in the general election). While each citizen’s vote is only a very small part of the eventual outcome, the power of such influence is likely to increase the number of political bets placed during an election year.

Key Political Betting Dates 2014 – 2015

In the world of politics, betting is all about key dates; here is an updated list of the most important dates on the political betting calendar over the next few years, in both UK and worldwide political markets.

  • Thursday 22nd May 2014 – European Parliament Elections
  • Thursday 22nd May 2014 – United Kingdom Local Elections
  • Thursday 18th September 2014 – Scottish Independence Referendum
  • Saturday 20th September 2014 – New Zealand General Election
  • Sunday 5th October 2014 – Brazil Presidential Election
  • Tuesday 4th November 2014 – US Midterm General Election
  • Thursday 7th May 2015 – UK General Election

How Popular Is Political Betting?

Depending on the political climate, political betting can be big business for bookmakers. In election years (both those in the UK and US), the value of political bets made solely in the UK can soar from anywhere between £25 and £40 million. While still a far smaller chunk of the betting market compared to sports bets, political betting is becoming more and more prominent, thanks in part to the increasing number of statistical resources available and accurate news reporting.

According to betting historian Graham Sharpe, political betting has been exercised in one form or another in the UK as far back as the 18th century. Research suggests the activity dates back even further to 16th century Italy, in particular in the cities of Venice and Genoa, thanks in part to an aspect of elections that involved random ballots. Based on the recent boom in political betting coupled with its firm history as a betting practice, it is safe to conclude that placing bets on political outcomes is here to stay as a permanent feature of the UK gambling scene.

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