British bookies wary of history but favour May victory

2017-06-06 09:29
British Prime Minister Theresa May (AFP)

British Prime Minister Theresa May (AFP)

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London -While polls suggest a tightening in Britain's general election race, bookmakers believe Prime Minister Theresa May will win an increased majority while admitting to forecasting failures in the past.

Ladbrokes favours May to see her present majority rise on Thursday from 17 to 70 seats while William Hill suggests a more modest increase to between 40 and 50, despite opinion polls that forecast a closer result or even a loss of majority for May's Conservatives.

William Hill spokesperson Rupert Adams did though admit to AFP he was "slightly concerned by the betting patterns" and wary of the bookies having "cocked-up" the past three big political betting events - the 2015 general election, the EU referendum and Donald Trump's victory in the US.

Matthew Shaddick, Ladbrokes head of political odds, said his colleagues were confident they have it right.

"We are factoring in two things that have been apparent in previous elections," he told AFP.

"Labour have fallen away in the final throes of campaigning and secondly polls have overstated Labour support."

Adams, whose employer expects to have taken around $6.5m in election bets by Thursday, said it may have something to do with "shy" Conservative supporters not figuring in polls.

"Polls suggesting a hung parliament, we believe, should be taken with a pinch of salt," he said.

"The Tory voters are less likely to speak up" and prefer to say they are undecided or voting for the Liberal Democrats, a minor opposition party.

'He's pretty stubborn' 

Both Adams and Shaddick said there was a consistent pattern in the big individual wagers being on the Tories, while lots of smaller bets are laid on Labour.

Adams said there was a similar pattern before the Scottish referendum in 2014 and Shaddick said it was a trend in betting ahead of the EU referendum.

The big individual bets went on remaining in the European Union, with many smaller punters betting on exiting the EU - although in that case, it was the small-time gamblers who were right.

"The big money is on the Conservatives. All the 4-5 figure bets are on a Tory majority," said Shaddick.

"The smaller amounts, but lots of them, are on Labour. It would cost us a lot if they won!"

Adams said the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London have had an impact on betting, with no bets laid on Sunday, the day after three attackers mowed down pedestrians in a van before launching a stabbing spree, killing seven and injuring dozens.

He said the scene in Scotland had changed too since May announced the snap election in April.

"Initially the odds favoured the SNP (Scottish National Party) taking all the seats but that has changed with the Tories likely to win six," said Adams.

For the centre-left Lib Dems, there are differing messages.

Ladbrokes have had some takers at 7/1 for them being wiped out completely although their favoured position is winning 10 or 11 seats.

William Hill believes they could finish with 14 or 15.

As for the long term futures of the party leaders, Adams said May's could be uncertain whilst Corbyn's is assured.

"Corbyn is 2/9 to remain as leader afterwards whatever happens. As we know he's pretty stubborn," said Adams.

Read more on:    theresa may  |  uk  |  elections

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