Betting on politics: Thinking up your own flutters

Matthew Partridge explains what you need to think about before proposing your own wager to the bookies.

As online betting has blossomed, there has been a huge expansion in the number of political betting opportunities available. But if you're not satisfied with the options on offer, you can always come up with your own idea for a bespoke bet, and try to get the bookies to accept it. "Customers can write to us or ask in shop and these are submitted to a trading team who treat each request on its merits," says David Williams of Ladbrokes. And Graeme Sharpe of William Hill says they are "always happy to receive email or letter requests for political wagers not listed on our website".

Of course, being happy to receive requests doesn't mean the bookie will always agree to them. One important consideration is taste. "We will not even consider requests which might involve the death of, or serious injury to, the subject," says Sharpe.

Indeed, he once received "a letter detailing an alleged intended attack on a US president and asking for a bet that it would happen". Not only did he "reject the request out of hand", but also "sent a copy to the US embassy". Similarly, Ladbrokes will reject any requests that are "overtly offensive or too difficult to calculate", such as a bet on "China invading and colonising New Zealand in the next ten years".

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

But beyond that, they are open to ideas, especially if they are confident of winning. Matthew Shaddick, Ladbrokes' politics expert, notes that "quite a lot of people" asked to bet on the odds of Barack Obama still being US president a month after Trump's scheduled inauguration. The bet proved so popular that the odds fell "from 100/1 [0.99%] to 8/1" [11.1%]".

William Hill once allowed perennial spoiler candidate "Screaming Lord Sutch" (David Sutch) to bet £1 at 15,000,000/1 on him becoming prime minister in his lifetime. And "dozens of people" have bet on Jeremy Corbyn being "the next James Bond" 1,000/1 with Ladbrokes.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri