Constituency betting is now a huge part of the overall betting market on the general election. 2010 was the first time that any bookmaker priced up every seat and we’ve given it a go again for 2015.

It’s quite hard for us bookies to make any money out of this. It is a very difficult task to keep on top of 650 different local heats where, in theory, people on the ground might have access to lots of useful information that we don’t have. We were delighted to break even in 2010 – that was mainly because we took stacks of money on the Liberal Democrats to win lots of extra seats which they spectacularly failed to do. Streatham, Durham and Hull North were three of the most notable contests where Lib Dem punters got their fingers burnt.

Ladbrokes took a nasty hit in quite a few seats. The Greens winning Brighton Pavilion was most unwelcome. However, the worst mistake we made was offering 100/1 about the Alliance Party winning Belfast East: We failed to realise that the popular ex-Lord Mayor of the city was running as their candidate and had to pay out thousands to clued up locals.

Anyway, based on the last election and the money we’ve taken so far for 2015, I’m going to take a guess at the five seats that will generate the most betting interest next year.

Nigel Farage’s presence will ensure this seat gets an enormous amount of media and polling attention and we’ve taken more money here than any other constituency so far. Initially available at 3/1, UKIP were backed down to 4/9 before yesterday’s Ashcroft poll which put the Tories ahead.

The biggest betting heat of 2010 looks sure to be near the top again. The Greens’ rise in the national polls is a good sign for Caroline Lucas, but the performance of the Green led council might not be helping her chances.

Potentially the tightest three way marginal in the country. The Lib Dem selection of popular Mayor Dorothy Thornhill has made this a live chance of being a surprise gain.

Julian Huppert seems to be all over the telly these days and has a big job hanging on to his 7,000 majority in a student town. Chuck in high profile kipper Patrick O’Flynn and the possibility of a decent Green vote to make this one even more unpredictable.

Is Danny Alexander’s high profile going to help or hinder his chances of holding on to a majority of almost 9,000 votes? The SNP’s odds have gone from 4/1 to 4/9, but recently we’ve seen a few shrewd judges backing the Lib Dems to hold on, despite their woeful Scottish poll numbers.

Lord Ashcroft’s latest constituency polling contained some fascinating snapshots of some of the big betting seats, and has resulted in some major shifts in the odds.

  • Thanet South; Farage in trouble

The most newsworthy finding is that Nigel Farage is in second place behind the Tories in Thanet South.  Punters had been piling into UKIP to win the seat; over 90% of the money staked had been for them and their odds had plummeted from 6/4 into 4/9. We still make him favourite, now at 4/6, but surely the Tories have to be a good bet at 7/4? There must be a very strong chance that some of the substantial Labour vote will vote tactically to keep out Farage, if they reason that their candidate is unlikely to win.

  • Portsmouth South; Tories take over as favourites from Lib Dems

There was some pretty good news for the Lib Dems in a lot of these seats, but this was an exception; no doubt due to the fact that sitting MP Mike Hancock has been thrown out of the party and there is not going to be any incumbency advantage for them to fall back on. The Tories are now Evens from 5/2 to overturn the 5,200 Lib Dem majority.

  • Doncaster North; could UKIP unseat Ed Miliband?

With Labour showing at 40% in this poll and UKIP in a clear second place, tactical voting from Conservative supporters could put the Labour leader in danger. We cut the odds of a shock UKIP win from 12/1 to 8/1.

The morning after last week’s Rochester and Strood by-election, we made the Tories 4/6 favourites to re-take the seat next May. Punters have been even more bullish and the Conservatives are now even stronger favourites, at 1/2, with UKIP drifting out to 6/4.

According to our individual constituency prices, that means Rochester & Strood is now the eighth most likely win for UKIP at the general election. The UKIP win % is the chance of them taking the seat at the general election, as implied by our odds.

RankSeatWin 2010UKIP Win %
1ClactonCons82.25%
2Thanet SouthCons64.58%
3ThurrockCons57.47%
4Boston & SkegnessCons56.06%
5Great YarmouthCons40.33%
6Castle PointCons38.47%
7Thanet NorthCons36.55%
8Rochester & StroodCons35.87%
9Great GrimsbyLab32.94%
10RotherhamLab28.51%
11Cannock ChaseCons27.91%
12DoverCons27.77%
13Louth & HorncastleCons26.29%
14Basildon S & Thurrock ECons25.67%
15Folkestone & HytheCons22.65%
16Sittingbourne & SheppeyCons22.57%
17EastleighLD20.81%
18Camborne & RedruthCons20.23%
19St Austell & NewquayLD19.83%
20Portsmouth SouthLD19.66%

So, 15 of their top 20 prospects are Tory held seats although it’s worth pointing out that UKIP might prevent Labour from winning seats like Thurrock, Yarmouth and Cannock Chase which would all be very high on Ed Miliband’s target list.

 

There’s been a bit of a gamble on the SNP to win the most seats in Scotland in next May’s general election. Available at 11/10 this morning, a rush of money has seen them move into 8/11 favourites.

There hasn’t been any particularly new polling or news developments over the weekend that I am aware of to cause this. When you get this sort of move, it’s most likely some kind of tipping line, or perhaps a coordinated group of gamblers.

We’ve also made a number of adjustments to our constituency betting north of the border. Let’s have a look at the seats in which the SNP are now clear favourites, and their latest chances of winning each seat, as implied by Ladbrokes’ odds:

6 SNP HOLDS

  • 93% Moray
  • 91% Angus
  • 92% Dundee East
  • 90% Banff & Buchan
  • 87% Na h-Eileanan an lar
  • 85% Perth & North Perthshire

8 GAINS FROM LIB DEMS

  • 77% Gordon
  • 66% Argyll & Bute
  • 61% Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey
  • 61% Fife North East
  • 59% Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
  • 45% Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine
  • 43% Edinburgh West
  • 34% Dunbartonshire East (joint favs w/Labour)

3 GAINS FROM LABOUR

  • 71% Ochil & South Perthshire
  • 64% Falkirk
  • 63% Dundee West

So, if they win every seat in which they are favourites, that still only leaves them with 17. They will likely need to win around 27 in order to be the largest party in Scotland. Which probably indicates that either our constituency odds for the SNP are a little too generous or that Labour are a good price at Evens to win most seats. I expect the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Yes, someone walked in to one of our shops in Sheffield yesterday and put £15,000 on Ed Miliband to remain as Labour leader until the general election. At odds of 1/8, they will be picking up a profit of just under £2,000 if they are right.

People are sometimes sceptical of these reports of relatively large bets being placed on political markets. If you were to go on to our website, you’ll usually find the maximum stakes allowed are much lower. That’s because we need to have some automated controls to prevent us running up large liabilities in the event of something relevant happening whilst we’re not paying attention. On the other hand, if you go into one of our shops or ring our telephone betting lines, you’ve got the chance to ask for much bigger amounts and get them referred to a trader. In the case of politics, usually me. Then we get a quick chance to have a think, make sure nothing important has happened to effect the odds, and make a decision.

If we don’t get our automated risk management systems right, we run the risk of losing a lot of money when stuff happens, especially if that stuff happens when the relevant traders aren’t around. The worst example of that happening in politics was the announcement of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate in Autumn 2012. The news leaked overnight, things didn’t work as they should have at our end, and I woke up to discover we’d taken thousands of pounds at around 3/1 on Ryan to be the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. Utterly galling, when you’ve spent weeks managing a market that was previously looking quite promising.

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