Everything You Need To Know About Betting On Politics

Welcome to our guide to betting on the world of Politics. Although different from most topics included in an average bookmaker’s sportsbook — because it’s not a sport — Politics is an increasingly popular field for bettors keen to have a flutter. Over the course of this guide, we will look at the markets in which you can bet on politics, what kind of knowledge you need to have to bet effectively, and more.

In addition to those topics, we will also have a look at some other details which will be of use to you if you are interested in putting your political knowledge to work (hopefully) making money for you. Not every bookmaker offers markets on the topic, for example, so we will look at the ones who do, and give an insight into the best bookies for betting on political subjects.

Last, and by no means least, we will give you some invaluable tips on how to bet on politics successfully. Bear these in mind and you’ll be able to avoid the traps that so many political bettors fall into. Read on, and we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about this less talked-about betting sector.

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Overview

An Introduction To Politics

It may seem strange to talk about betting on politics. After all, it is a very serious subject, affecting just about everything that happens in the world. While losing a football match may leave you annoyed and frustrated for a day or so, political decisions can and do affect entire lifetimes. It is worth clarifying that betting on politics does not engage so much with the decisions made by politicians, as the decisions people make on their politicians.

Why Politics Is Important

Politics is simultaneously global and local — the results of elections can decide who will be asked to get involved in high-level talks to stop, or start, a war. They can also decide how regularly buses run between small villages. Everything, and everyone, is affected by politics in some way. While you can decide not to care who wins the FA Cup or the Formula One World Championship, the election of a new government in your country or even a President half-way across the world can affect you whether or not you know it’s happened.

Many people only pay much attention to Politics when an election is imminent, taking place, or just completed. There is a difference, though, between Politics and electioneering. If you want to understand Politics well enough to bet on it, then it is important to watch the political machinations that take place between elections.

Following Party Politics

While almost all politicians belong to parties, there can be a great deal of difference even within a party. It’s no coincidence that one of the most popular UK political betting markets is “Next Leader of (x) Party”. For seasoned political enthusiasts, one of the most enduring truths is that someone who is obvious about positioning themselves to be the next leader becomes, for that very reason, less likely to be the next leader. This is one of the few markets in which the favourite is often less likely to win.

The Risks Of Betting On Politics

Politics is unlike any sport, in that it doesn’t take place for ninety minutes at a time, or for as long as it takes to run 26 miles. It is always happening, and so the needle of who is “winning” is constantly moving. Up until recently, the impression has been that that makes politics easier to predict. However, the UK’s referendum on Brexit and the US Presidential Election of 2016, as well as the UK’s General Election in 2017, have shown that experts, polls, the politicians themselves, and even the bookmakers might be losing the ability to predict what will happen next.

In short, whether you’re deeply fascinated by politics, or just interested in betting on it, it’s worth taking into account the one thing it definitely has in common with sports; no matter how sure you are of what will happen, it still has the capacity to shock you.

Different Types Of Politics Bets

As noted, there are a few different markets in which you can bet on politics. These tend to centre around elections, but there are some that focus on specific decisions to be made by politicians, or special milestones. Here are a few of the most popular examples, and what you need to know about them.

Next President/Prime Minister Of (x)

Perhaps the most popular political bet is concerned with predicting who will be the next person to run a specific country. Betting on this means, first of all, having an idea who will win the election to become that leader — in the UK, that will (usually) be the leader of the largest party in a General Election, while in the USA it will be whoever wins the Presidential Election.

However, elections take place every few years, and leaders can change between elections. When predicting who will be the next UK Prime Minister, for example, you also need to consider whether the incumbent may step down before there is an election — and who their party will choose to replace them.

In the USA, one also needs to consider who the two main parties will choose to represent them at the next Presidential Election — or, indeed, whether a sitting President will step down or be impeached, in which case they are replaced by their Vice President. In any case, knowing about the person in the job right now, along with who is well-thought of in their party, and whether the current trends are for or against their party, is important here.’

Largest Party At The Next Election

In the UK, and most countries outside the USA, there are general or legislative elections every few years which select both the members of that country’s parliament and the national leader. In the US, meanwhile, there are elections every two years to select the makeup of the House of Representatives, and one-third of the Senate. A popular political betting market revolves around predicting which party will have the largest number of those members of parliament, Senators, and so on.

To a certain extent, the opinion polls carried out by polling firms can give a clue as to who this party will be. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, though, as recent elections have taught us, so you may want to consider other indicators such as a country’s economic performance and job figures. It is also worth paying close attention to the individual popularity of party leaders, especially in those countries where the leader of the largest party becomes the head of government. A party that polls well, but has a leader who does not, may well underperform in a national election.

Date/Year Of Next Election

This is a market that only crops up in those countries which do not have fixed election dates. In the US, for example, the next Presidential election is always four years after the last one. On the other hand, even in the UK where there is an expectation that each Parliamentary term will run for five years, a “snap” election can be called. This happened in 2017, as the sitting government sought to press home an advantage in the polls.

To successfully make this bet, it is worth looking at the strength of the government. If they have a small majority or none, but the economy and other national factors are in their favour, they may seek elections in order to cement their position. Equally, if they are performing badly, there is the chance that the government will collapse and be forced to call fresh elections. Snap elections are potentially a huge risk, so it is only a good idea to bet on them if the government is at the good or bad extreme of performance.

Next Party Leader

Not unlike the next Prime Minister, or next President, markets, this bet type focuses on who will be the next person to lead the major political parties in a country. In the UK, for example, there are more or less permanent markets at some bookies for next Conservative leader and next Labour leader, and you may occasionally see markets for the next leader of other parties, particularly if those parties have a vacancy for the leader at present.

Judging who to vote for in this market is subtly different to picking who will be the next Prime Minister or President of a country. It takes different attributes to be selected as leader of a political party and then to lead that party to victory at an election, and judging who to bet on in this market often means working out which wing of a party is strongest at a given time.

Specials

Most political betting markets fall into the above four sections, but there are occasional markets that don’t. These can most accurately be termed “Specials”. These may for example refer to one-off, occasional votes such as referendums — many bookmakers have a market on when there might next be a Scottish independence referendum, and on the potential result.

Other special Politics betting markets may refer to the survival of an embattled leader — “Will they resign this year?”, for example, and within weeks of Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency of the USA, there were plenty of markets on whether, and when, he would be impeached. Domestically, if a new party has formed since the last election, or a smaller party is gaining in support, you may also see markets on whether they will win a seat at the next election.

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Best Bookmaker For Politics Betting

There are several bookmakers out there who will offer you odds on political markets, particularly the more basic ones listed above. Probably the best bookmaker for UK customers, though, in this respect is Paddy Power. They have odds on the Next Prime Minister market, as well as on the next leader of the main parties and some of the smaller ones. As they’re an Irish bookie, they also have permanent markets on the next Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), and which party or parties will form the next Irish government.

They also have numerous American-related politics markets, including odds on the identity of the next President and how Congressional elections will turn out. It is also to Paddy Power that you should turn if you want a novelty, or more specialised, political bet. Their list of Donald Trump-related bets has also made headline news more than once.

An honourable mention should be reserved for Betway, however, who have a few more esoteric markets; if you fancy a flutter on the identity of the next Danish prime minister, then you’ll find the odds you need there. While Paddy Power have more in-depth and fun markets, more serious politics nerds will appreciate the breadth of Betway’s offer.

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Popular Politics Betting Terms

If you are intrigued by the idea of betting on political markets, then there are definitely plenty of sites where you can do so. What, then, should you be looking for when you get there? Well, for the less politically-inclined, there may be some terms that are unfamiliar to you, and a bit of clarification may be in order. Alternatively, you may be well up on politics, but not much of a bettor. The following short glossary should be of use to both camps.

  • Seats — Each parliament has a set number of parliamentarians, divided between the various parties. Whichever party has won most seats — a popular betting market — usually has the chance to form a government
  • Cabinet As in “Next Cabinet Minister to Resign”. The cabinet is a Prime Minister’s team in government, including their Chancellor, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and so on.
  • Midterm In the US, there are elections to Congress every two years, Presidential elections every four. The Congressional elections that happen in non-Presidential election years are known as midterms, and seen as a reflection on the President’s performance between elections.
  • Spread — In a bet on the number of seats a party may win, the spread represents the low- and high-end of the total they are expected to receive.
  • By-election — Known in America as a Special Election, this is a one-off election held to deliver a regional candidate to a national parliament. Held when a previous parliamentarian has vacated their seat.
  • Constituency — The geographical area represented by a member of parliament; sometimes used interchangeably with “seat”.
  • Leader — The head of a political party — their members’ chosen candidate to become Prime Minister if the party wins the national election.
  • Term — The duration between elections. Fixed as a set number of years in some countries, but movable in others. You may see odds on whether a struggling leader will “serve a full term”.
  • Referendum Although a government is elected to make decisions on the part of the country, some decisions are considered too important to be made by a select group of politicians and are instead palmed off onto the electorate, who decide by voting in a referendum.
  • Impeachment — A process by which a President can be removed from office if they are felt to be unfit to discharge their duties. Odds may be offered on this if a sitting President is deemed to be of sufficiently questionable character.

Top Tips For Betting On Politics

Knowing what you now know, you will have decided whether or not betting on Politics is for you. If you have decided that it is, you’ll need a few pieces of guidance on how to increase your chances of winning. Stick to the following tips and you won’t go too far wrong.

Follow The Polls

In any democracy, there is an election every few years to decide who will be trusted to run the country. Football teams play about once a week. Going on recent form is a reasonable way to predict that a football team will win or lose their next match. In politics, it’s not quite that simple. The “team” who won the last election will have had years to become unpopular and tainted by the time of the next one.

So, although there have been numerous examples in recent years of the polls getting the result of an upcoming election really quite spectacularly wrong, they are the best way of getting an insight into what the public is thinking. Companies such as YouGov, IpsosMori, and Opinium are among the most accurate in the UK, while Marist and TIPP produce the closest numbers to the actual result for US Elections. Most, if not all, of these pollsters provide their results regularly on their Twitter accounts.

However You Vote, Bet Conservatively

By “conservative”, we don’t mean bet on the Conservative candidates or parties necessarily. What we mean is that changes that seem seismic during a campaign are often relatively minor once the voting is done. In polls and national coverage, a relatively good performance in an electoral campaign can often inflate a smaller party’s share of the attention.

Prior to the 2010 UK General Election, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg charmed the TV audiences and the press by outperforming Conservative leader David Cameron and incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Labour) during the debates. When all the votes were counted, his party had lost five seats.

Also, while polls may point to the eventual winner, there is a tendency for them to inflate the margin of victory. Opinion polls in the run-up to the 2017 election suggested that the Conservatives had between six points, and a double-figure lead on the opposition Labour party. In the end, the gap was less than 2.5%. In short, don’t expect huge changes. They happen occasionally, but are still rarer than we’re often led to expect

Understand The System

Different countries have different electoral systems, and what represents a win in one country may not in another. This is important if you are going to pay attention to polls, because they may lead you to a faulty conclusion.

For example, twice since the turn of the century — in 2000 and 2016 — the US Presidential candidate who has received the most votes has lost the election, because the Presidency is awarded on the basis of an archaic and largely incomprehensible system called the Electoral College Vote. It’s not just about how many votes, but where you get them — and in America, it’s more important to win rural states than urban ones.

In much of continental Europe, however, you’ll find that the electoral system is based on Proportional Representation; this means that smaller parties often end up getting more seats than the same vote share would get them in the UK, where the system is a more complicated First Past The Post (FPTP). This makes it worth making a speculative bet on a more minor party in Germany or Sweden, for example, if the odds are suitable.

Bet On Smaller Contests

Political pundits have managed to get the results of most of the recent large-scale votes wrong, on the whole. This is not because they don’t know anything, but because we seem to be in the throes of a series of changes that are reordering the way everyone looks at politics. Northern, working-class Labour strongholds are turning Conservative and wealthier, more urban seats are voting Labour for the first time. This makes it hard, going on impossible, to predict any general election with genuine confidence at the moment. However, at more local levels, it’s easier to call.

If you can find odds on individual constituencies — or states, for American elections — then the level of accuracy that is possible for predictors seems to increase. For example, while the Green party may hold a small sliver — which is getting smaller — of the UK national vote, their leader Caroline Lucas keeps increasing her majority at constituency level. Keeping an eye on local contests is also a good idea because there are more of them than there are nationals.

Never Back The Favourite In A Next Leader Market

The major parties change leaders only rarely, and yet there is always a market for Next Leader betting. Read, listen to or watch any political analysis for long enough and you’ll hear of a few names who are referred to as “widely seen as a future leader of the party”. Ask a politically-astute friend right now who they think will be the leader of a specific party come the next election; they will have an answer.

Here’s the thing; they’ll likely be wrong. Prior to David Cameron vacating the leadership of the Conservative party, his putative successor was his Chancellor, George Osborne. When he dropped out of contention, it was then assumed it would be Boris Johnson. Next to no-one expected the next leader to be Theresa May. As for Labour, in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was seen as a joke candidate, at UK political betting odds of 100-1 in a field of four to assume the leadership — yet he won it in a landslide.

Why does this happen? Among many, the feeling is that someone who looks too much like they want power is seen as untrustworthy by those who will pick the next leader. The favourite in this market is always likely, for obvious reasons, to be someone who has made it clear they want the job — precisely the kind of naked ambition that is received very poorly by voters.

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