Warren Lush – Who had a good General Election?

warrenlushA week after the country discovered that its next government was a Conservative majority one, independent consultant Warren Lush takes a look at how the election campaign played out for bookmakers.

The dust has now settled on the UK 2015 General Election…well I suppose you could say that! How did the bookmakers fair and which companies can claim the campaign was a good for them as it was the Tories?

Thursday 7th May 10pm BST – the exit polls come out and the British political establishment is rocked to its core. The pollsters, Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties exclaim that that the exit poll cannot be true and the markets all of a sudden move to massive odds-on for Cameron to remain Prime Minister. The odds against for a Tory majority get swallowed up and even in the early hours is still available at 11/4.

Pundits such as Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams and Sky News’ Sophy Ridge suggest that the betting markets are more accurate than the pollsters but who really saw the Tory majority coming when all indicators pointed at a Hung Parliament? As a new freelancer I had created an “Experts Bet” competition for Matchbook.com for the election and within that were three bigwigs at YouGov – i could see their despair in their tweets and personal responses to me but lets get this clear – the betting markets weren’t a huge amount more accurate though Cameron was favourite for Prime Minister before 10pm. This was clearly better than the polls though.

This bodes well for the PR departments of bookmakers for the next UK election and the forthcoming US election. The media will be inclined to not read too much into what the pollsters say and they will look for alternative indicators with the bookmakers a prime candidate meaning they are likely to get further brand exposure. Throughout this election night you would notice little things like Andrew Neill quoting Ladbrokes – people were looking for an alternative to the pollsters. I couldn’t help but but feel sorry for Peter Kellner of YouGov on television – he’s generally a fine man and gets thing right but this was a disaster for his industry.

Warrenlush-oldladbrokesElectionWho came out as the winners from the betting industry in this election? I would argue it was Betfair and Ladbrokes. Both seemed to have invested a great deal more in the event than they have done previously. Maybe encouraged by great betting volumes on the Scottish referendum both went that extra mile. As an ex-Ladbrokes spokesman myself I noticed they were betting on more constituencies than ever before and were also willing to take more bets on actual election day.

They had their own political betting specialist in Matt Shaddick and seemed to be the go to bookmaker source for the majority of the UK media. They even had an election war room for media enquiries. Have to applaud a good job by those involved – it doesn’t surprise me that Ladbrokes is so central at times like these – they always have been. Now if Jim Mullen could grapple with the business they could return to their prime position as an operator that they occupied in the past – a market position fitting for their status on such nights.

Betfair created their own app – Betfair Predicts and the idea was great – election maps and odds broke down into percentages to give the betting unfriendly media and customer a good view of how the election stands in their markets. Hey, there was even quizzes though i have to wonder what might happen to the app now as when you visit today, a week after the election, it shows that David Cameron is 98% likely to be Prime Minister. Perhaps it will be back for the US election or is this a bigger concept that will now be applied to sport?

Both Ladbrokes and Betfair emerged as winners in my mind. William Hill were missing from the media circus but in Graham Sharpe they still had one of the most best twitter feeds. Where were Paddy Power? I notice they employed former Brown advisor Damian McBride and were offering seriously good odds on the next Prime Minister for new customers but they were missing on the PR front for once.

Paddy Power were also not around or in the coverage much for the name of the new royal baby with Ladbrokes and Coral at the forefront – despite sending 23 press releases on the subject! What’s going on there? Have they taken things so far with PR that the media are bored with them, have they got too corporate and lost their edge? The most likely reason in my eyes is that simply the quirky Irish eye doesn’t work for really big news events of national significance.

Other winners from the industry in my eyes were Sporting Index, who had a fantastic event to showpiece their product and Mike Smithson of politicalbetting.com who exploited his niche very well. Bet you he wishes there was a big betting election every year though!

As for me and my tipping – it was a success – I went for a Tory Minority and UKIP to only win one seat so things didn’t turn out too bad.

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