Friday, October 17, 2008

Fun from Newsweek: Irish Bookies: U.S. Election Is Over


By Joanna Heath

The U.S. election is less than 3 weeks away, but some believe it’s a done deal--and are willing to bet more than $1.3 million on it.

On Thursday, Paddy Power PLC, Ireland’s largest betting agency, announced that it was so confident in the outcome of the election that it would pay out over 1 million euros ($1.3 million) on bets already made that Barack Obama will become the next president of the United States.

Should it get its prediction wrong--and it has made mistakes before--Paddy Power will be obliged to honor bets also made in favor of John McCain (currently running at odds of 5-1 against) in addition to Thursday’s payout, risking big losses for the firm.

However, according to Darren Haines, a representative of Paddy Power, the company isn’t taking any risk at all. “The combination of the three presidential debates, and then the differences between McCain and Obama’s handling of the economic crisis, has led us to believe that really there’s only going to be one winner now. One of them looks like a president, and the other one not so much.” With Obama’s odds of winning at 1-9 (meaning punters betting $90 would only make $10 if he won), bets have dried up. According to Haines, it is now a “one-horse race.”

Haines denies any kind of political motivation for the decision: “Americans can’t bet with us anyway, so there’s little use in us having a political viewpoint. It’s purely from a betting and entertainment point of view. Having a bit of fun with our betting, no more than that.”

Fun or not, Paddy Power’s widely reported move will only add to the air of inevitability starting to surround the Obama campaign, which is leading in many national and state polls.

In any case, if McCain is hoping for the proverbial luck of the Irish to help his ailing campaign, it is all in vain--they’re too busy collecting money from their bookies.

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