By Geoffrey Smith
January 23, 2017

Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one who found out it doesn’t pay to second-guess the American voter.

Paddy Power, the Irish-based bookmaker famous for its gimmicky promotional offers and ads, confirmed Monday it lost over $6 million on Donald Trump’s surprise election victory in November.

Over $1 million of that was because it started paying out early on bets on Clinton as the Democratic candidate surged ahead in the polls in October, one of its regular marketing ploys. Although it dialed back the payouts in the first week of November as Trump closed the gap in the final opinion polls, it still ended up firmly on the losing side, the firm said in a stock exchange statement. Gambling is legal and widespread in the U.K., although still a tightly regulated business.

Paddy spoke – and paid – too soon. Credit:
Paddy Power Betfair Plc

But, before you shed any more bitter tears on the poor bookie’s account, rest assured that the company (now known as Paddy Power Betfair Plc after one of a series of mergers shaking up the U.K.’s thriving gambling market) said it still expected to meet its previously announced profit forecast. That’s because the $42 million in annual cost savings from the merger far outweigh the misjudged exuberance of its front-office staff.

The presidential election was by far the biggest-ever political betting market in U.K. bookmakers’ history, taking over $180 million in bets. Most bookies ended up on the losing side. Initial reports suggested that the pattern of betting was similar to that seen in the U.K.’s referendum to leave the European Union back in June. Around two-thirds of the money staked went on Clinton, as it had done on the Remain camp, skewing the odds in their favor. However, a much larger number of smaller bets went on Trump and Brexit.

Paddy Power, like other bookies, has an incentive to bang the drum when it makes one-off losses, the better to advertise their generosity. In the case of Trump, it only paved the way for a raft of more publicity-grabbing markets.

Right now, Paddy Power is offering 6/4 odds of him winning the 2020 election, and 3/1 on him to be impeached during his first term. And, after an uncertain start to his career as White House press secretary this weekend, it’s also offering 4/1 on Sean Spicer not making it past the end of the first quarter (click here for the full list of Trump specials).

 

 

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