Bookmaking firms are expecting GBP 100 million in bets in a close-fought election
Bookmaking firms expect to see around GBP 100 million in bets made on the outcome of the May 7 general election in Britain, reports the Reuters news agency, noting that this is the closest-fought election in a generation and could result in a hung parliament and coalition government deals.
Individual punters are betting on their favourites, some to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling, with leading UK bookies watching developments and adjusting odds constantly.
The current situation has the opinion polls claiming that the main Conservative and Labour political parties lead and are neck-and-neck, with lesser parties hoping to play kingmaker in a hung parliament, but bookie odds still favour the Conservatives for re-election, albeit with a very slim margin.
Interestingly, experts have expressed the view that the bookmaking odds probably offer the most accurate indicators of the outcome, especially in the late stages of campaigning.
"When the betting markets say one thing and the polls say another, the evidence suggests that it is a good idea to go with the markets," Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, director of the Betting Research Unit at Nottingham Business School, told Reuters.
"I've interrogated huge data sets of polls and betting markets over many, many years in the U.S. and the UK and basically the betting markets are very, very accurate predictors of the outcome of elections, and certainly compared to polls."
The professor said he could think of no recent examples of betting markets getting it wrong and cited the Israeli election in March as an example, noting that the markets bet on prime minister Netanyahu winning, whilst even the last-minute polls predicted his defeat.
In the UK election arena at present, prediction markets favour the Conservatives.
Whilst GBP 100 million in wagers may seem a lot, it is dwarfed by other major gambling events such as the Grand National, which regularly attract action in excess of GBP 300 million.
Vaughan Williams thinks that up to five times as much money could be wagered before May 7 than was the case in the last UK general election back in 2010, which saw the Conservatives form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
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