Is the indyref betting market being skewed by English money?


The odds for a YES vote moved in again today, to 7/2 from 4/1. That’s a fairly significant shift since the second debate, when the odds were 9/2.

I’ve seen an argument recently that the betting markets don’t really reflect opinion in Scotland, because large staking English punters are backing NO and skewing the odds. Let’s have a look at all of the money Ladbrokes have taken on the outright result since the debate finished on Monday night, broken down by country.


That seems fairly conclusive evidence  – Scottish money has overwhelmingly been for YES. In terms of numbers of bets taken, the same pattern appears:


So, even though most bets from England are for YES, a few bigger bets mean that the actual total stakes are more in favour of NO.

Based on all of the bets we have taken this week, there is certainly some evidence to back up the claim that a small number of wealthier, English punters are keeping the YES odds at a higher level than they would otherwise be.

Does that mean the betting markets are “wrong” and underestimating the true chance of a vote for Independence and missing the real “feeling on the ground”? Maybe, but it’s also perfectly plausible that people who have less emotional capital invested in the result are forming a more objective opinion on the likely outcome. 

Carswell odds-on to win Clacton for UKIP


You have to think that Douglas Carswell must be very confident of taking the seat for UKIP for him to have stood down in the first place. He’s in a part of the world which is demographically quite UKIP friendly and the party did very well in local council elections. This will be a hugely demoralising blow for the local Conservative party and, despite a twelve thousand plus majority, we think that Carswell’s personal standing makes him a strong favourite.

It’s certainly possible that Labour could sneak this by mopping up some of the Lib Dem vote and hoping that UKIP and the Tories split down the middle. However, we thought the same about Newark and they put in a fairly woeful display there.

I wouldn’t say that we saw this coming, but a few people had some small bets on Carswell to be next UKIP leader in the last week – his odds had gone from 100/1 to 33/1 even before this news; he’s 2/1 favourite now. We’d also taken some money from informed sources on UKIP to win Clacton at the general election at 20/1. I don’t think they were guessing.

We’ve cut the odds on UKIP winning a seat anywhere in the UK at the general election from 4/6 to 1/3. We’ve also quoted 6/4 that any other Tory MP defects before the general election. Nadine Dorries and Mark Reckless are a couple of names that spring to mind.


Constituency profile courtesy of UK Polling Report




The UKIP Top Twelve Target Seats

Sky News have reported on some “internal UKIP polling”, which the say reveals UKIP’s top dozen target seats. Ladbrokes have odds on every seat in Britain and, based on those, we can allocate a probability of UKIP winning each of these twelve seats. 

Seat Win 2010 Maj% UKIP Odds UKIP Win %
Thanet South Conservative 16.6 11/10 43.09%
Great Yarmouth Conservative 9.9 15/8 32.01%
Thurrock Conservative 0.2 2/1 30.34%
Boston & Skegness Conservative 28.8 5/2 25.76%
Thanet North Conservative 31.2 4/1 17.63%
Great Grimsby Labour 2.2 4/1 18.01%
Portsmouth South Lib-Dem 12.6 4/1 18.00%
Eastleigh Lib-Dem 7.2 5/1 15.03%
Sittingbourne & Sheppey Conservative 25.5 8/1 9.91%
Forest of Dean Conservative 22.7 12/1 7.02%
Worthing East & Shoreham Conservative 22.9 12/1 7.08%
Aylesbury Conservative 23.7 16/1 5.45%

The top three in the list are especially promising as there is every chance they could be three-way contests and something around 35% of the vote could win any of those.

If UKIP high command had just looked at Ladbrokes’ odds, then the bottom four on the list wouldn’t have made the cut. All look like ultra safe Tory seats and it will take a huge effort to win any of these. Aylesbury has a majority of over twelve thousand, but I guess the party are hoping to exploit the HS2 issue here.

Party workers in Castle Point, Folkestone and Rotherham will be a bit disappointed not to have been included, as the betting would suggest that they are all much better prospects than the likes of Forest of Dean.

We’ve got some betting on how many seats UKIP will win in total next year; it’s 5/1 that they manage ten or above.



Betting markets react to indyref debate


Salmond’s clear cut victory last night saw the odds of a YES vote cut from 9/2 to 4/1 with Ladbrokes. History tells us that any post-debate boost tends to mostly fade away pretty quickly, and there is no particular reason to think this will be any different. The odds on the exchanges dipped a bit immediately after the first debate poll, but rebounded pretty quickly. Most other bookmakers also cut the YES price, some to as low as 7/2.

The snap ICM poll last night seemed to indicate that it hadn’t changed the overall picture, but it will be interesting to see any polls later this week with fieldwork from the days after. If one of the more YES friendly pollsters is surveying today and tomorrow, it’s not inconceivable that we could see a tie, or even a YES lead. That really would shake the betting markets up.

There has also been a flurry of money on a high turnout after Salmond’s confident prediction that it would be over 80%. The odds of it being between 80 – 85% were cut from 7/2 to 3/1. I’ve written some more about turnout betting here.

Even though a NO vote would suit Ladbrokes’ betting position more at the moment, we were quite pleased that Salmond won as it helps keep interest in the outcome high. Another Darling victory might have sucked a bit of life out of the market.

Buzzword Bingo Results

For anyone who had a bet on our buzzword bingo debate market, we’ve settled the following as winners:

  • 1/100 Currency
  • 1/5 Plan B
  • 1/2 Tuition Fees
  • Evs Norway
  • 7/4 No Going Back
  • 3/1 Arc Of Prosperity



Salmond favourite to win indyref debate rematch


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.


Indyref punters move strongly towards YES


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.