More than Â£150k in matched bets since Tuesday morning
The thousands of punters who flocked to put money on the Italian General Election on Monday night might have to wait some time for their winnings. The refusal of Silvio Berlusconi to accept the result and demand further scrutiny of contested ballot papers could leave the result in limbo for weeks.
Just like in the aftermath of the Bush-Gore race for the White House in 2000 punters will have to be patient and the bookie will hold onto their money.
The terms of the Betfair exchange market – which as at 0100 BST today had seen Â£1,255,118 in matched bets – are “Who will be Prime Minister of Italy as a result of the next Parliamentary Elections?” As long as that remains unclear the market remains open.
You can still bet on the election “winner” Romano Prodi at 1.16/1 while the Berlusconi price stands at 26/1. Interestingly there has been a fair bit of activity on “any other” with 6.4/1 being available.
If Prodi backers want to get their stakes out they can “lay” him (bet against) at the current price of 0.19/1. This price has drifted out from 0.1/1 yesterday afternoon and might ease further as gamblers try to release some of the cash they have tied up. The effect of laying up to the amount you have bet is to reduce your winnings by about a fifth – should Prodi actually make it.
Given the very small number of votes that separated the two leaders there might be a case for taking the 27/1 on Silvio. He has the power of incumbency and the current head-of-state, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, has made it clear he wants his successor, who’ll be chosen in May, to preside over changes.
Back in 2000 I had a spread bet on the number of states Bush would win in the Presidential election. At the time I did not have a credit account and had an enormous amount of money tied up while the Florida result was resolved in the courts. Maybe the same will happen here.
This is just one of the risks of political betting.