LONDON (Reuters) - Polls say the outcome of the Scottish independence vote is too close to call but gambling company Betfair is already paying out more than 100,000 pounds ($162,000) to customers who backed a “No” vote.
Bookmakers sometimes pay out early on sports events when they consider the result a foregone conclusion, judging that the publicity they generate is worth the risk should there be a surprise turnaround.
“We’ve decided that ‘No’ is most likely to be the winning vote in 3 days’ time, so we’ve put our money where our mouth is,” online betting specialist Betfair said on Tuesday.
The offer applied only to bets placed with Betfair’s sportsbook — the smaller part of its business where the company sets the odds itself.
Betfair makes most of its money from an exchange where gamblers can bet against each other. Betting patterns on the exchange indicate a 79 percent probability of a “No” vote, according to company spokesman James Midmer, reinforcing the company’s confidence in the outcome.
The referendum on Thursday when voters in Scotland decide whether to split from the United Kingdom has attracted record levels of interest from British gamblers.
One London-based gambler will collect 973,000 pounds if Scotland rejects independence after staking 800,000 pounds on a “No” vote with William Hill, Britain’s largest bookmaker.
William Hill said it expected betting of around 10 million pounds across the bookmaking industry, which it said was roughly the equivalent to what bookmakers take during a high profile English Premier League football match.
“We hope this will be the coming of age for political betting,” said company spokesman Graham Sharpe, looking ahead to a British general election in 2015 and a vote to elect a new U.S. President the following year.
Opinion polls indicate the vote in Scotland will be very close.
Out of four recent polls, three showed those in favor of maintaining the union had an advantage of between 2 and 8 percentage points. But an ICM poll conducted over the Internet showed supporters of independence in the lead.
Writing by Keith Weir; editing by Stephen Addison/Jeremy Gaunt