Why did Betfair void all election date bets?

Why did Betfair void all election date bets?

Is the betting exchange politically illiterate?

Yesterday the betting exchange, Betfair, closed down it’s election date betting markets and voided all wagers. All money was handed back to punters. The firm’s reasons were set out in an email:-

“Dear Michael

We are contacting you in reference to bets that you had matched on the – Next UK General Election – Election Date Month & Year Markets.

The rules for the above markets were based on the government, in its usual manner, declaring an official polling date for the next general election. This decision has historically been made by the Prime Minister who asks the Queen to dissolve Parliament.

However, on 15 September 2011, the Fixed Term Parliament Act was passed which sets the date of the next general election at Thursday 7 May 2015 and subsequent elections to be held on the first Thursday of May at five year intervals.

Due to this fundamental change in which future polling dates will be determined, the entire nature of the market has changed from what was intended. We have therefore taken the decision to void both markets in their entirety.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The Betfair account sounds as though completely out of the blue this bill got through parliament on September 15th without anybody noticing anything in the intervening period. It also wrongly assumes that the election date is bound to take place in May 2015.

What the betting exchange seems seems to have been unaware of is that a key demand of the Lib Dems in the coalition negotiations last year was that there should be a fixed parliamentary term in order to stop the Tories pulling out of the deal at a time of their own choosing and going to the country.

There were long debates on how this would work in practice and in the end the bill was enacted setting the date for May 7th 2015 – with two major exceptions:

  • An election can be held earlier if a motion of no confidence was passed and no alternative government was found
  • Or if a motion for an early general election was agreed either by at least two-thirds of the House.

Thus if for whatever reason the coalition breaks down before 2015 then there could be a confidence vote. If in that eventuality the Lib Dems vote with Labour and other parties then it would go through. The Tories have 306 of the 650 Westminster seats – the other parties between them have 344 excluding the speaker.

Betfair in their ham-fisted and ignorant way have prevented political punters from backing up their reading of what might happen with a bet.

I started getting into this market seriously after coming away from the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham convinced that Clegg’s party would see it out to the end – but there was always a risk with betting on 2015.

Please Mr Betfair – get some advice before making stupid decision like this one. You do your credibility no good at all.


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