It’s Round Two for Salmond v Darling tonight. The good news is that those of us outside of Scotland will be able to watch it live on BBC2 (you can get 25/1 that either candidate mentions “STV Player” tonight). You can find our latest debate odds here.

Salmond was 2/5 favourite to win the first contest, but Darling put in an unexpectedly aggressive showing and did a good job of pushing the First Minister into the corners before hammering him on the currency issue. Presumably, Salmond will have a better response worked out this time and the expectations bar is set much higher for Darling tonight, so we’ve still got Salmond as narrow favourite.

We’ve also issued some Buzzword Bingo odds – just predict any word or phrase that either candidate will use at any stage of the debate. Will either of them decide to mention “Ice Bucket” at 5/4; that’s already been backed in from 2/1. Perhaps Darling will want to poke a bit of fun at Salmond for his mention of attacks from outer space in the first debate; “Aliens” is 6/1. I note there is a campaign to get “The Proclaimers” to Number One in the charts on the week of the vote – it’s 25/1 that they get a name check. If anyone’s got any suggestions for other buzzwords, post them here and we’ll add the best ones to the betting.

On the actual result of the referendum, we cut the odds of a YES vote from 5/1 to 9/2 yesterday following a week of non-stop support for a vote for separation. The NO camp will be pleased if Darling just gets through this one unscathed.

On June 1st, the odds of a YES vote in the referendum were just 3/1. Today, Ladbrokes are quoting 5/1. So, you’d assume that punters had been moving in favour of NO to make that change happen.

Actually, no. In fact the exact opposite has been happening over the summer. Here’s a chart showing the percentage of money being staked on the two sides in each of the last three months:

Even more dramatically, here’s how it breaks down when we just look at the number of bets placed:

So, for August to date, almost 75% of the bets Ladbrokes have taken have been for YES. How come the odds have moved in the opposite direction? Here are three of the reasons why:

  1. The £600k punter. William Hills have reported that they’ve taken £600k from just one client on NO. That bet alone will have had an impact on the whole market; Hills can push their YES price out as a result, other companies have to do the same if they want to compete for that money.
  2. The Exchange market. If we simply reacted to the supply and demand of our customers, our prices would quickly be out of line with the betting exchanges, opening up arbitrage possibilities which would quickly be exploited, with the odds settling down at a marginally lower price for YES. That doesn’t mean the exchange price is necessarily the “true” one, because in this market in particular, I think we are talking about two totally different categories of investor. Maybe the Scottish high street betting shop punter is actually better placed to assess the situation that the broader based exchange client base. I’m more of the opinion that you’ve got a better chance of coming to an objective view on the probabilities by being removed from anecdotal “on the ground” evidence.
  3. Oddsmakers have taken an opinion. Probably the most important factor. To be totally honest, we are of the belief that a lot of the YES money is motivated more by optimism and confirmation bias rather than the hard evidence of the polls. So we’re taking it on. Opinion pollsters and bookies alike will be taking a hit on September 19th if the Scots have voted for independence.

Labour lost nine seats in the Yorkshire/Humber region in 2010. Today, Ladbrokes are forecasting that they will regain just four of those at the next general election. Below is a list of the seats most at risk of changing hands, along with the “lose percentage” which is the chance of the incumbent party being defeated, based on Ladbrokes individual constituency odds.

SeatWinner 2010Maj% 2010Lose ChancePrediction
Bradford EastLib-Dem0.985.24%LAB GAIN
PudseyConservative3.470.16%LAB GAIN
DewsburyConservative2.869.59%LAB GAIN
KeighleyConservative6.254.71%LAB GAIN
Elmet & RothwellConservative8.144.09%CON HOLD
Colne ValleyConservative8.843.74%CON HOLD
CleethorpesConservative9.642.37%CON HOLD
Calder ValleyConservative12.440.25%CON HOLD
Leeds North WestLib-Dem20.930.96%LD HOLD
Bradford WestLabour14.227.55%LAB REGAIN
Sheffield HallamLib-Dem29.927.10%LD HOLD
Brigg and GooleConservative11.726.44%CON HOLD
Great GrimsbyLabour2.224.96%LAB HOLD
Scarborough & WhitbyConservative16.523.66%CON HOLD
HalifaxLabour3.422.52%LAB HOLD
Morley & OutwoodLabour2.320.14%LAB HOLD
RotherhamLabour27.920.04%LAB HOLD

Bradford East looks like an extremely likely pick up for Labour, with sitting MP David Ward coming under criticism for some recent remarks about the Middle East. George Galloway is a 3/1 underdog to hold on to Bradford West for Respect after his stunning 2012 by-election victory. It’s a slightly uncomfortable point to make, but if the situation in Gaza is still a major issue in May 2015, that would probably increase his chances if he decides to stand again.

Pudsey, Dewsbury & Keighley are three seats that Labour have to be winning if Ed Miliband is to have any chance of becoming PM. If they are to ensure a majority, they probably need to be winning some of the seats further down the list as well.

The Lib Dem majority in Leeds North West should be enough to see them hold on. Likewise for Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam although he is by no means a certainty to be returning to Westminster. After his very narrow win in 2010, Ed Balls looks a lot safer in Morley & Outwood this time.

UKIP have emerged as very plausible challengers for the Labour held seat of Great Grimsby, with Austin Mitchell retiring. Rotherham has also become a realistic target for them after their spectacular gains in the town at May’s local elections.

The East Midlands could be a crucial battleground at the general election, with a host of Labour/Tory marginals. Based on Ladbrokes’ current odds on every constituency, we are forecasting that Labour will gain seven seats straight from the Conservatives. Below is a list of those seats, along with others that we calculate are at most risk. The “lose chance” is the probability, according to our odds, that the incumbent party will be defeated. TCTC = Too Close To Call.

Seat2010 Winner2010 Maj %Lose ChancePrediction
SherwoodConservative0.479.79%LAB GAIN
BroxtoweConservative0.775.34%LAB GAIN
Amber ValleyConservative1.266.86%LAB GAIN
LincolnConservative2.370.40%LAB GAIN
CorbyConservative3.577.91%LAB GAIN
Northampton NorthConservative4.859.79%LAB GAIN
ErewashConservative5.364.13%LAB GAIN
High PeakConservative9.339.18%CON HOLD
Leicestershire NWConservative14.524.51%CON HOLD
Boston & SkegnessConservative28.825.88%CON HOLD
AshfieldLabour0.424.38%LAB HOLD
Louth and HorncastleConservative27.519.83%CON HOLD

One of the most high profile casualties could be Anna Soubry in Broxtowe, with former Labour MP Nick Palmer a 2/7 shot to retake the seat. We list Corby as a Labour gain, although they currently hold it after the by-election to replace Louise Mensch. We’ve seen some informed money for the Conservatives to win this back and their odds have shortened from 4/1 to 3/1. New Education Secretary Nicky Morgan faces a tough battle to remain at Westminster, with the result in her Loughborough constituency currently too close to call; both Labour and the Tories are listed at 10/11.

We give the Liberal Democrats virtually no chance of winning a seat in the region, with the interesting exception of Ashfield. They achieved the second highest Lab-Lib swing in the country here in 2010 and came within 200 votes of winning. The early betting suggests that a Lib Dem gain is not out of the question here in 2015, at 4/1.

UKIP have two of their best chances in the whole of the UK in this region. They got over 50% of the vote in Boston & Skegness in May’s European elections and are just 7/2 to overturn a huge Tory majority. Neighbouring Louth & Horncastle is another very live possibility for them, particularly with the long-standing Peter Tapsell stepping down as MP; UKIP are 4/1 to take the seat.

So, here’s how we think the seats will break down in 2015, with changes from 2010:

  • Cons 23 (-7)
  • Lab 22 (+7)

The latest Independence Referendum polls have been fairly steady. In terms of the betting markets, not much has changed either, but I think we are definitely seeing an increase in money for YES. A customer in one of our shops in Edinburgh had £2,500 at 9/2 today and we’ve seen plenty of smaller bets over the weekend as well. NO backers have been harder to find recently.

Is this the Commonwealth Games effect? I think it might well be. We haven’t had any polls with fieldwork since the games started yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a modest uptick in the YES numbers in forthcoming surveys.

Normally, I don’t think you’d expect the effect of such an event to be very big, or long lived. On the other hand, if it were followed by a debate win for Salmond v Darling on August 5th, perhaps we could start to see some real movement. It would certainly be interesting if one of the pollsters produced a lead for independence – I could imagine there being a huge betting move towards YES. After all, as John Curtice reports, 56% of YES supporters already believe they are going to win, even though current polling wouldn’t give them much cause for that optimism.

Although a NO vote would be more profitable outcome for Ladbrokes at the moment, we’re hoping that the polls get a bit closer, as that is bound to stimulate turnover. This has already been a huge betting heat, and could break all sorts of records if the result is in doubt going into the final weeks. Personally, I’ve had a little bit of money on YES today, as I think there is a lot of scope for the odds to shorten in the next week or two.

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