Care to Bet?

British Bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes both have these odds on the US Presidential race:

Barack Obama    1/2
Mitt Romney  13/8

That means people putting real money on the table are saying that as of today the odds are 2 to 1 in favor of Obama, 8 to 13 in favor, i.e. 13 to 8 against Romney.

This is consistent with the steady 60 on Intrade in favor of Obama.

Disregard the polls.

The betting money says Obama wins.

It is an uphill race for Romney.

30 thoughts on “Care to Bet?”

  1. “The betting money says Obama wins. ”

    2-1 for baracky
    1.625-1 against romney

    doesn’t look that uphill

  2. Polls suggest it is much closer, and people pay attention to polls — for some reason — and ignore the betting. I see some conservatives getting smug as Romney closes the gap in polling. He has not cracked the 60 on Intrade, and foreign betters are consistent with that. Romney is seriously behind, and the polls are wrong, and most of his supporters under-estimate the scale of the challenge. That is my take away from this.

  3. I wouldn’t bet against Romney. The polls said that at the top end 55% would vote for the traditional marriage initiative in NC – 61% voted for it.

    If you think how lousy the economy is , etc, etc I think Obama has an uphill battle – but obviously the “smart” money isn’t with this….

  4. The bookies are more accurate than the polls on average. The media almost always ignore the bookies and play up the polls. It’s more dramatic and provides fuel for endless talking-head discussions that drive ad sales.

    The best polls are the private ones paid for by the campaigns rather than those commissioned by the media. For the majority of us who don’t have access to the internal polls, the bookies provide the most reliable information available.

  5. I agree with the above comments. I trust the prediction markets much more than polls. In my head I say it is probably 55-45 in favor of the zero as of now. A lot can and will change in six months. Romney has a better chance than McCain ever had because he has had boots on the ground getting ready for this for four solid years.

  6. BTW, it’s important not to confuse poll numbers with Intrade’s and other bookmakers’ numbers. They represent different things. The polls report estimated vote percentages: Obama 52% vs. Romney 48% or whatever. The bookies report odds of victory. The hypothetical 52%/48% poll margin might translate to 60%/40% odds for Obama/Romney on Intrade. My take on the current bookmaker odds at around 60/40 or 66/33 favoring Obama, in conjunction with public polls that seem to show Romney having a slight vote edge or running even relative to Obama, is that the race is likely to be close in voting percentages but that Obama still has a strong advantage.

  7. The bookies are more accurate than the polls on average

    Polls can be doctored many times to skew results according to the group paying the pollsters – at least the public ones. Agreed on the private polls.

    When you are putting your money down that is a different matter! But as was already mentioned a lot can happen until November.

    BTW Dan just heard on the radio in WI a wife ran over the husband while they were arguing over the recall. Things are getting rough there ;-)

  8. @Bill I have heard that story non stop for a few days and it is already beyond a joke.

    @Johnathan I agree – people with money on the line are looking at the electoral college lineup and it certainly favors the zero as of now. Personally I think it isn’t as bad as 60%. I would put money on it but InTrade is not legal as far as I know if funded with a US bank account.

  9. to be be taken in account: romney dog story- baracky i ate dog, romney hs bully – baracky i attacked little black girl. tough to keep up with “the lies of my father” it is on effin’ audio!!11!!

  10. I don’t think the oddsmakers fully appreciate the ‘re-elect nobody’ sentiment in thhe United States. Ask Dick Lugar if that sentiment is real or not.

    I say Romney wins in a romp – not because anyone particularly likes him, but because the ‘throw the bums out’ sentiment that sent the Republicans packing in 2008, then sent the Dems on their way in 2010, is a strong as ever.

  11. A lot can happen between now and then too. A lot of elections are a crapshoot tied to stuff that happens that is unexpected. Bush Sr looked unbeatable for a long time.

    People don’t realize how many people hate Obama, for better or worse. The spotlight has been on the Republican primary and the extended scrum that it turned into.

    Also I think that the kids (young) are NOT going to turn out for Obama. He told them he’d stop the wars. He didn’t do that. Good for the country, bad for the liberal youth vote. They will all tell polsters that they’ll vote for Obama all day. But I don’t think that they will turn out at the polls.

    No one knows much at all. At least a bit depends on who Romney picks as VP.

  12. To be honest, I really don’t expect Romney to win; if only because I can’t see him not saying or doing something Leftist that will make the Republican base throw up its collective hands in despair. And if it looks like he will win; there is always the option touted by North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue, OMB Director Peter Orzag, and White House Czar Van Jones last fall.

    That said, we have to fight it out on whatever the battlespace is, before and after the election. By whatever means are available. Romney is at best a fragile vessel for the hopes of a free Republic.

    Subotai Bahadur

  13. @Bill W – i am reading on Drudge that a prison inmate in WV got 42% of the vote against Obama

    I am thinking about this this evening – 13:8 against Romney? 61% vs 39%

    I don’t believe that either.

    Interesting story on numbers and I am not even sure it applies to this situation.

    I used to know someone who was friends with the manager of the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulpher Springs, WV.

    I heard (via 3rd party) an interesting story on their restaurant business.

    That is, whatever ratios of entries are sold in the 1st 1-2 hours, those ratios stay constant for the entire evening.

    Selling 14% lobster and 22% filet mignon?

    They will stay pretty much constant for the entire evening, then may be statistically different the next night.

    Does it make any sense?

    Not to me anyway – point is ratios are ratios and can radically change in short order.

  14. @Michael – as far as I know you can’t get the InTrade action unless you do it with a non US bank funded account. So I suppose you could transfer some money to a foreign (i.e. Swiss) bank account, then tranfser that money into the InTrade account and play from there. Or maybe PayPal has a foreign subsidiary – not sure on that. But please don’t take my word for it – do your own research. I would truly love to participate in these prediction markets but to me it isn’t worth the legal hassles I might incur. And I don’t know how taxes work with it either – I am pretty sure if falls under gambling but honestly don’t know.

  15. Lexington – As I write, InTrade is giving Obama a 59.4 per cent chance of winning. There’s been a decline of about 2 per cent in the last month, a decline I expect to continue.

    As of now, I would take the Romney side of the bet, at those odds. (And I suppose that now I have to get around to writing that post on the odds that I have been intending to write for a couple of weeks.)

    Michael Kennedy – You can bet legally, in the United States, at the Iowa Election Market, a research project of the University of Iowa business school.

  16. I agree with Jim Miller that Romney is the better bet at current odds. Romney going to parity with Obama seems more likely than Obama going to 70%.

  17. Considering he’s the incumbent, Mr. Obama better be the favorite 6 months before the election. Briefly last summer Intrade had his chances for reelection below 50%. …..Imagine how high his reelection odds would be if either Mssrs. Santorum or Gingrich were the presumed Republican nominee?

    @ Michael Kennedy: I’d be wary of playing Intrade even though the prices are legit. I used to trade with a sister company of Intrade called Tradesports. Small bets on all assortments of topics, from a Wednesday night baseball game in June, to the Kentucky Derby, to even the ethnicity of the next Pope after John Paul’s death in 2005. (That proposition read, “Will the next Pope be Italian?”. I bet “no” on that one. )

    Long story short, I eventually got my initial deposit of $100 up to $250+. Then a couple years ago, just before the US government started cracking down on overseas gambling websites, I was sent a terse email stating that effective immediately Tradesports would shutter and I would be receiving a check for my money. Said check never arrived, even after I sent a few emails demanding my money.

    Seeing as how it was an overseas gambling website not legalized to operate in America I couldn’t exactly go to the Better Business Bureau………Still waiting for my check.

  18. Not that I know beans from bananas when it comes to odds and betting, but I read here:
    that tradesports bought Intrade… and would expire all contracts not at 0 or 100 which means not a thing to me. I would have made the assumption that if you had no outstanding ‘contracts’, you should have gotten a refund of escrow balance.
    Money was supposed to be held in escrow. Who is the escrow agent, and why has not Intrade been held to account to close the accounts properly?
    Have you tried here:
    All enquiries to be directed to

    Noted in the Notes for that Wikipedia entry was this:
    #3 ^ Daniel Gross, “Polls say Kerry. Futures say Bush,” New York Times, August 8, 2004.

    Rambler has a hard row to hoe, but *I* think there are a lot of people that want to keep their own hard earned money, and make charitable offerings without government insistence {at the point of a gun}..
    To them, redistribution of wealth is not a feature, but a bug.


  19. The fact that those are British bookmakers who’s customers are primarily British would tend to skew the betting towards Obama given the sort of reporting that the British public is subjected to.

    What sort of odds were the British bookmakers giving in 2004? Most of the British (or any Europeans, for that matter) that I had any dealings with were utterly flabergasted that George W.Bush was reelected since their news outlets almost universally told them that Bush was a murderous moron.

    It is kind of like the betting odds involving New York sports teams. There are a lot of New Yorkers who bet their home team. The odds don’t always reflect how likely the New York team is to win but rather what the bookies have to do to cover the bets when so many are going one way.

  20. The fact that those are British bookmakers who’s customers are primarily British would tend to skew the betting towards Obama given the sort of reporting that the British public is subjected to.

    More than that Mark – these are people who think they know who will be President – not who they want

  21. -I believe that Tradesports and Intrade are the same organization. Tradesports covers traditional sports lines and Intrade covers politics and everything else.

    -The driving force behind the operation was John Delaney, the CEO. Unfortunately, he died in a mountaineering accident a couple of years ago. I don’t know how much his absence has affected the business but I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been changes.

    -There were wild swings in the pricing of Intrade’s Bush/Kerry contracts on the day of the 2004 elections. However, the Bush contract generally traded above 50 before then. Not the same situation that we see now with Obama vs. Romney. I hate to say it but that’s how it is.

    -I don’t think the nationality of the bookmakers’ customers matters. They are risking their own money and have a strong incentive to evaluate the odds accurately. Historically, the bookies have a very good record in predicting election results in various countries. Bettors in the UK have access to the same news reports and poll results that Americans read.

  22. Jonathan:

    Back in the day Tradesports was a smorgasbord of betting options. From NCAA football to Fed Funds Futures. Anything they thought would generate liquidity they’d make a market in.

    Futures prices are far more accurate than opinion polls when it comes to predicting politics. They’re not perfect. As you mentioned, on election day 2004 the futures for John Kerry suddenly surged suggesting a Democratic victory. Exit polls, one of which I helped set up, showed strong early morning turnout in Ohio, particularly of younger voters, which caused the markets to spasm, short term.

    BTW, does anyone remember during the Bush administration there were rumors of a prediction market, operated by the US government, which would get rather specific of potential terrorist strikes? The story died quickly as the outcry was loud. The only close thing I could find is this broad one…..

    @Anonymous I will try again, we’ll see what they say this time. Thanks.

  23. BTW, does anyone remember during the Bush administration there were rumors of a prediction market, operated by the US government, which would get rather specific of potential terrorist strikes?

    I think that a lot of people remember and that it was essentially a good idea.

  24. The foreign betting is unreliable as an indicator. The British press is certainly in complete denial about Obama, still, although parts of the Tory press seems to be recovering its sanity a bit. I find many of the Brits I talked to over there in the past few months have an unrealistic picture of Obama’s chances. The Continentals are even more clueless. I happened to be in France in October during the 1988 presidential race; the French media took Dukakis far too seriously. There was a Ladbroke’s branch right by my hotel the last trip; I really should have gone in and put some money down on Mitt.

  25. The two numbers to follow are the total number of employed Americans and the employment percentage of the total American work force.

    If both are below their Jan 2009 numbers in Nov 2012, Pres. Obama is gone.

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