Bookies’ Corner – The Donald Trump Phenomenon

Perhaps the unlikeliest of political rises in history has been that of Donald Trump. Whether he wins or not he’s turned the US political landscape on its head. This is a man who nobody seriously believed could get this far except perhaps The Donald himself.

William Hill had him at 150/1 to become the next US President when it first opened the market, he’s now 9/2.

For the latest SBC Bookies’ Corner, and ahead of today’s New York primary, we spoke to four politics savvy betting traders; Ladbrokes’ Head of Political Betting Matthew Shaddick, Mirio Mella of Pinnacle Sports, Star Sports’ Jamie Loughead and US Politics expert Michael Garforth at Sporting Index.

Here are their thoughts on the primaries race so far, and Donald’s ongoing success.

Does the lengthy and complicated primaries process in the US put off bettors? 

Mirio Mella, Pinnacle Sports
Mirio Mella, Pinnacle Sports

Mirio: For any bettor used to first-past-the-post politics, and making a straight assessment based on personality and policy, the process employed by US political parties for selecting their Presidential candidates is certainly complex, and likely to be off-putting.

At the same time the convoluted process represents an opportunity for those bettors prepared to follow closely and do their research.

A casual observer might for example have seen the amazing momentum achieved by political novice, Donald Trump, on the back of victories in key states. His odds at Pinnacle Sports for Republican nomination started as high as 7.74 (October 2015), yet had contracted to 1.56 by March 1st. However, despite leading the race for the Republican nomination, it’s paradoxically starting to look like he’s less likely to win.

For outright victory the system requires Trump to have reached the magic 1,237 Delegate mark before the Republican National Convention in July and despite his successes that is looking less and less likely. And in that scenario the convention is very unlikely to choose Trump because of the work Cruz is doing in the background to win over Delegates, and because Donald J is very unpopular with core elements of the Republican Party.

The odds are now starting to reflect that reality with the recent money on Ted Cruz (now at 2.86*) and Trump edging out to 1.83*. Tuesday’s crucial New York Primary will have a key bearing on whether that recent trend continues.

Having been so fond of tweeting this apocryphal Einstein quote, Trump would do well to heed his own advice.. “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

Do you expect bettor turn out to die down now that it’s essentially a two horse market?

TedCruz
Can Cruz pip Trump to the post?

Matthew: On the one hand, we’d normally be pretty sure who the nominee is by this stage in most US election cycles, so it’s good that we still have an open and very unpredictable market on the Republican side. On the other hand, it’s now quite hard to have an opinion on the winner without getting into the fiendishly complicated delegate maths and convention rules. So, I think there has been a bit of a drop off in the betting recently, but if we get to the end of the primaries with no clear outcome, we could see a really fluid and exciting betting heat going in to the convention. 

From Ladbrokes point of view, we have a bit of a liability on Trump as the nominee (he opened up at 50/1) but it’s peanuts compared to how much we’d lose right now if he became President. On the plus side, both Cruz and Kasich are big winners for us in both the nomination and Presidential markets, so we’re cheering on anyone but Trump as things stand!

How reactive are the politics markets to press stories and rumours? Can betting markets be swayed by press coverage and media focus? 

Michael: Politicians, Kings, Queens and Emperors have been brought down throughout history by ‘gaffes’. If Twitter existed back in the French revolution and Marie Antoinette tweeted ‘Let them eat cake’, we would have cut the odds significantly on her being the next French royal to be guillotined.

History has taught our politicians nothing, in fact Donald Trump showed his fondness of history recently by retweeting a Mussolini quote which resulted in us suspending betting on Trump for the day. Whilst these press stories mainly have short term effects on a market as punters often over react whilst the media focus is intense, other gaffes have more long term effects.

Trump’s recent views on abortion, and the effect it had on his polling numbers amongst women led us to look more deeply into the significance of the female vote. In 2012, 23% of voters were single women, and 67% voted for the Democrats. If the GOP are to win in 2016, then they need to drastically improve their appeal amongst this key demographic who could prove to be the most important voter in 2016 as they now make up a significant number in several swing states that will decide the presidential election. This led to us shortening the Democrats in our winning party index market as we are anticipating the likely head to head of Clinton vs Trump, and the possible Goldwater style defeat that the GOP could suffer under Trump.

There are candidates in this race other than Trump, honest, and that is evident by the fact we added Paul Ryan to our list of runners on the back of press stories that he is considering running in the event of a brokered convention. Despite his recent denial in the press, as they say, don’t believe anything until it has been officially denied, Paul Ryan remains in our list of runners and popular with punters.

How much does the presence of a divisive figure like Trump affect betting markets? What other similar examples in history have there been, if any?

Jamie: The impact on betting markets with someone who polarises public opinion is that betting markets become erratic. A wildcard candidate can change the whole dynamic of a contest, and make the field act very differently. Layers have to react to the goalposts being moved, which in the case of the Republican nomination appears to be that it’s a competition of who can seem firmest on immigration and terrorism.

Betting on political leaders is a relatively new phenomenon, so we don’t have a vast bank of past data to crunch. But anecdotally, I would argue the nearest parallel to Trump’s shock rise, and slight demise more recently, would be that of Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

Corbyn changed the parameters of the entire leadership contest, which until his entrance was largely about appealing to the “centre ground”- where it was believed Labour had lost the General Election. Within weeks of Corbyn entering, the likes of Andy Burnham had to U-turn and fight to appear left-wing enough to challenge Corbyn in this new contest.

The entrance of a wildcard attracts punters to the betting markets generally because the contests become more exciting, but exchange layers tend to act more conservatively- draining markets of liquidity. Traditional bookmakers like myself are always happy to lay a decent bet on contests like this, regardless of the curve balls of a Trump or Corbyn but know that we have to work ten times as hard to keep abreast of developments when there’s a wildcard in the running!

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