In betting, both sides have intrinsic advantages. Punters get to pick and choose their bets, waiting for the bookie to make an error. The bookie gets to write the terms of the bet, from odds to wording and so on. Importantly, they can offer bets on only half of a market – letting people bet on some outcomes but not others.
I wrote over Christmas how I sometimes dream of PredictIt being opened up to Brits. Another, even less likely, change I daydream about is bookies being forced to offer both sides of all bets. If you offer 3/1 on something happening, you’d have to take 1/4 on that not happening.
I highly doubt any such law would ever be passed. But as long as it isn’t, we may as well enjoy the mad prices it allows bookies to offer. Witness, for example, Paddy Power’s incredible odds on Korean unification.
North Korea and South Korea (or, as an Australian paper once called them, Naughty and Nice Korea) have been at war since 1950. The two sides still skirmish on a regular basis and the demilitarized zone between the countries is surrounded by two of the most highly alert military forces on the planet.
But Paddy Power thinks they have a fighting chance of making up and becoming friends in the next year or two. Just 2/1 are the odds they’ll give on a re-unified Korea being recognised by the UN in the next two years – suggesting a roughly 30% chance of it happening!
I’m touched by Paddy Power’s deep and abiding faith in the human spirit, but if you like those odds I have a bridge to sell you. Can anyone think of a poorer bet on the market today? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments below), please.
Pip Moss posts on Political Betting as Quincel. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts