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Olympic gaming

August 22nd, 2005

What will the British political landscape look like in July 2012?
Sir Steve Redgrave winning Olympic gold
It’s easy for political gambling enthusiasts to get carried away and forget how tiny a market our hobby is compared to sports betting. For example, about £150,000 of betting on the Conservative leadership has gone through Betfair so far. That’s less than 5% of the trade on Sunday’s Chelsea–Arsenal game.

However, William Hill seems to be aiming at some crossover marketing, with a selection of markets themed around the 2012 Olympics in London.

Some are specific to the Games themselves – for example, Sir Steve Redgrave (pictured) is 4/1 favourite to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony. But most of the markets on offer enable punters to bet on what will be happening in other areas of national life when the Olympics open on 27th July 2012.

You can get 20/1 against Tony Blair still being Prime Minister then – by which time he would have to have won a fourth general election and would have spent over 15 years at the helm, longer than anyone since William Pitt the Younger, and the third longest term of all time. These odds are more generous than Ladbrokes’ now discontinued 16/1 against a fourth Blair term – though of course in that case you would still win if he retired in 2011, say.

If you think Blair will go before then, and take his party with him too, the odds on offer are 6/4 against a Conservative Prime Minister on the day of the opening ceremony, or 66/1 against a Liberal Democrat. This is largely a bet on the 2009 or 2010 General Election, where Conservative backers can get better odds of 1.75/1 against the Tories being the largest party. If you think a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition is possible, however, you may prefer the 6/4, which would pay off if Labour were the largest party but the PM a Conservative.

The winner of the June 2012 election for London Mayor will be rewarded with having the Olympics during his or her honeymoon period. The two candidates for whom William Hill is quoting odds are the Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone (50/1) and the Conservative peer, former MP and head of London’s bid for the Games, Lord Coe (33/1). Both of these prices seem generous. Livingstone, though divisive, works the media extremely well, he manages to retain considerable personal popularity and he is not too old to be entirely ruled out; he would be 66 at the time of the 2012 election. Coe, meanwhile, has the advantage of an impressive career outside politics – he would be the kind of candidate who had a good shot of breaking out of the Tories’ image problems. The question is whether he would want to return to partisan politics rather than continuing a popular and non-partisan role through to the end of the Olympics.

(Of course, there is another mayoral election before that, in 2008, which we’ll cover in another article shortly.)

The snag with all of these bets is that your money is tied up until 2012 and you cannot take profits early. You also need to consider the interest you would forego on your stake. You can bet on the pound remaining the national currency at the time of the Olympics – but at odds of 0.22/1, your return would hardly be better than from putting your stake in a savings account. This seven-year itch will probably keep most gamblers from any serious bets in these markets. But nevertheless it’s good to see the profile of political betting raised by tying it in with sporting events.

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson is on holiday until 5th September.






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