2015 General Election: from the ballot box to the betting slip
The biggest political betting event of the year is behind us. Time to count up those votes, and those betting slip winnings.
Best bookmaker odds for the 2015 UK General Election
Bookies had a pretty accurate view of the unfolding of the election, with betting markets estimating on average the Conservatives chances of winning at 70% and Labour at 35%. Unsurprisingly, this left quite unremarkable odds for political punters to take advantage of, with the best odds on “most seats” to Conservatives with 7/4.
Odds for Labour were consistently higher priced, with good reason. More precise markets is where punters truly had an opportunity to shine, with odds on all feasible outcomes going through the roof on the eve of the election. The highlights on these market were as follows:
- Conservative Majority priced 15/2 from William Hill (more odds from William Hill here)
- David Cameron to be next PM priced 10/11 from Paddy Power
- Tories to win between 326 and 350 seats priced 9/2 from Ladbrokes (more odds from Ladbrokes here)
- Labour to win between 226 and 250 seats priced 10/1 by Ladbrokes
- UKIP to win exactly 1 seat priced 11/4 by William Hill
The arrival of the exit poll results burst the rapidly inflating betting bubbles on all of these novelty betting markets. In the aftermath of the election result, a few betting slips were worth gold and other punts turned out to be rather ill-informed.
One election – various records
The 2015 General Election confirms a rising trend towards big bets on novelty events, particularly politics, in recent years. This year's vote even brought new records to the books, with largest win and largest loss on a political bet being topped this weekend.
Biggest win: £240,000
The largest single bet placed on the General Election yielded a record £210,000 return to a punter in Scotland.
An anonymous senior punter placed a £30,000 in the Ladbrokes branch in downtown Glasgow on the Conservatives winning an outright majority.
With odds of 7/1 at the time the bet was placed, the mystery retiree can take home £240,000 on the outcome of Thursday's vote – a new record in political betting.
Biggest loss: £205,500
He went from the record-holder for the biggest political betting return to the record holder for the biggest political betting loss in the space of a weekend.
The man who had made £193,000 in his bet on the 2014 Scottish referendum proceeded to place his winnings back in play (and some) for the 2015 General Election, placing a £205,500 bet on a hung parliament.
With odds of 2/9 from William Hill, the man stood to earn a whopping £250,710 on his punt, but the final results proved him wrong in the last hour.
Political Betting: here to stay?
While it is the subject of many a controversy abroad, where bookmakers are forbidden to open markets on political betting. The success of novelty betting on events such as Royal Baby II and presently the General Election are indicative of several important trends:
- The arrival of a different category of punter on these markets, with expertise in politics or celebrity culture rather than strictly in sports
- A significant amount of high-value bets on these markets, indicating their coming to maturity and general level of acceptance in the UK
- Confirmation that betting markets are a reliable indicator of the true probability of an event
With big events coming up on the political calendar such as the US election, London 2016 Mayoral elections, and new leaders to appoint for all major UK parties, bookmakers will most likely produce more odds surrounding these high profile events and odds will most likely be less subject to variation as volumes of bets increase on these markets.