Gambling on a political outcome is always an interesting predicament. Gauging the mood of the public can be tricky for bookmakers, which can itself lead to big wins for the bettor.
The election in Australia earlier this week resulted in a shock coalition which ultimately cost Sportsbet almost AU$5m.
Confident in Labor
Like most of Australia, the betting operator Sportsbet was so confident of a win for the Australian Labor Party that it paid out on bets even before the votes had been counted. The company predicted it would be a home run for the party, with around 82 seats being taken and were so confident that it paid out AU$1m a few days before the results were declared.
However, Sportsbet was left red-faced on the night when the Coalition gained at least 75 seats (more are still to declare), which left them leapfrogging their opponents. By the time the winnings had been counted for those who had bet on the winning side, the company was down around AU$5m ($3.46m).
It seems that Sportsbet took it in good spirits though, with a series of social media tweets poking fun at itself, and also Australian businessman Clive Palmer. The millionaire invested AU$60m in his election campaign and still failed to win a single seat.
Paying out on a bet before the result has been declared is a well-known tactic in the gambling industry. It encourages players to withdraw their winnings to potentially spend more on another wager.
But, ultimately, the cost of public opinion came not in the amount lost to bets on Labor and leader Bill Shorten to win. Instead, it was the odds that came along with the Coalition and Scott Morrison that really twisted the knife for Sportsbet.
The losses were confirmed by Richard Hummerston, spokesperson for Sportsbet. He admitted that the company had suffered significant losses although they haven’t appeared to have lost their sense of humour. Hummerston joked that the gambling operator would have to take alternative measures to compensate for the costs made after the early winning payouts.
Election betting still big
Gambling on election results remains as popular as ever in Australia, although one man in particular, will be regretting his choice. Operator Ladbrokes confirmed that one of their punters had placed a wager of AU$1m in the hope of landing an additional AU$230,000 if Bill Shorten and Labour had won. He placed the bet at odds of AU$1.23. Instead, Ladbrokes will be keeping the bet in full after the shock result of the opposition.
Other big bets on the 2019 election were AU$15,000 on the Coalition at AU$4 on April 23 and AU$10,000 at AU$1.53 on Labour back in August.
After its recent win, the Coalition is now looking to either claim a slim majority or command a minority government with the support of independents.