- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2020

Irish betting powerhouse Paddy Power was so confident that Democrat Hillary Clinton was going to steamroll Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race that it paid out bets before Election Day.

The costly gamble resulted in the worst political loss in Paddy Power’s history.

“The $1 million payout on Clinton, followed by around $5 million on Trump, was one heck of a double whammy,” Paddy Power spokesman Lee Price told The Washington Times.

The sportsbook operator is hoping to avoid a repeat this presidential election, and yet, once again, it is billing Mr. Trump as the underdog against Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden — falling in line with betting houses across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“This has been one topsy-turvy election for us — although Joe Biden is now the clear favorite to be next president (4/9) that has only really been the case over the last few weeks,” Mr. Price said in an email.

“Trump is currently priced at 7/4, and would be a huge shock (again) to be named president,” he wrote. “In fact, there are eerie similarities between the odds this time around, and in 2016.”

Mr. Trump was an odds-on favorite to win reelection until March, when the trend turned in Mr. Biden’s direction.

“It was a similar story in 2016 ­— prompting Paddy Power to pay out early on a Hillary Clinton victory,” he said. “Put it this way, we won’t be paying out early this time around!”

Paddy Power paid out Mrs. Clinton at 2/11 (-550) and Mr. Trump at 9/2 (+450).

Peter Welch, a Gambling.com spokesman, said Paddy Power wasn’t alone in taking it on the chin.

“Interestingly — and for Democrats, perhaps, more chillingly — it was also reported that at exactly 10:20 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, some commentators had given Hillary Clinton an 85% chance of winning compared to Trump, who was given a mere implied probability of 15%,” Mr. Welch said in an email. “How quickly things changed, where if someone had placed a $100 wager on Trump at that moment in time, his implied probability of 15% would translate to odds of +567 and would have returned a total of $667.”

Mr. Trump’s win four years ago was indeed a stunner for most — including members of the New York Republican’s inner circle who watched from Trump Tower as the results rolled in.

The 2016 outcome planted seeds of doubt in the minds of party insiders and the chattering class in Washington over how much weight to give 2020 polls showing Mr. Biden ahead in battleground states and with a firm edge in favorability.

Those same polls are influencing the betting markets across the pond, where putting money on the U.S. election has become a popular pastime.

Nate Silver, the founder of the political statistics website FiveThirtyEight, which gave Mrs. Clinton a 71% chance of winning in its final 2016 prediction, threw some shade on the political betting industry Wednesday.

“Since almost no people have the relevant expertise to build political forecasting models (it takes tons of work and even then is easy to get wrong), political betting markets are basically just a competition over what types of people suffer more from the Dunning-Kruger effect,” Mr. Silver said in a Twitter post.

Still, hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured in on straight-up bets, and wagers on the Electoral College margin of victory, the number of states won by the major parties, and whether the winner will carry the national popular vote.

Five days out from Election Day, the bookmakers overseas tend to agree that Mr. Trump is running against the odds.

“We’ve seen much more money this time around, and it’s the most bet event in history, according to Betfair,” William Kedjanyi, a political betting analyst for Star Sports betting, told The Washington Times. “I would think that’s true for every bookmaker as far as politics goes — certainly it’s been the most active market I’ve ever seen at Star, politically — and a lot of that has been on Biden, so we’re now 15/8 (+188) on Trump, which is the best price in Britain. Mind, that hasn’t stopped punters jumping onto the Biden bandwagon here!”

Mr. Biden is coming in at (-250).

It marks a big shift from earlier this year, when Mr. Trump started as a 11/10 (+110) favorite and Mr. Biden was considered the 9/2 (+450) long shot.

The Betfair exchange on Wednesday showed Mr. Biden’s odds of winning hovering around 1.53 (-188) compared with 2.86 (+186) for Mr. Trump.

In fractional terms, that puts Mr. Biden around 1/2 and Mr. Trump around 19/10.

During an appearance on the “Oddsmakers” podcast Wednesday, Mr. Kedjanyi said Mr. Trump can eke out a win if it turns out to be true that large numbers of “shy Trump voters” have hidden their affinity from pollsters.

“I’m not being scientific here, but it is entirely possible there are plenty of quiet Trumpers,” he told the host of “Oddsmakers” George Elek.

Mr. Trump and his allies, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, have promoted that theory in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Paul Krishnamurty, a pro gambler and political analyst for Betfair, said Mr. Biden is in a stronger position than Mrs. Clinton was four years ago, citing his ability to connect with working-class voters in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Mr. Biden’s biggest asset, he said, is that he is not Mr. Trump.

“I just think more broadly it isn’t about Biden,” Mr. Krishnamurty said on the “Oddsmakers” podcast Wednesday. “Biden isn’t leading because there is a massive endorsement of him. It is a rejection of Trump.

“Trump is like no politician has ever been,” he said. “He completely consumes the conversation. Everything is about him, so, therefore, the election becomes a referendum on him.”

Mr. Kedjanyi agreed, saying Mr. Trump is the dark horse.

“Let’s say he is a 9/1 shot truly,” Kedjanyi said, hypothetically, of Mr. Trump’s chances. “How many times have we seen 9/1 shots win?”

Then again, 65-1 long shot Country House won the Kentucky Derby last year when the initial winner, Maximum Security, was disqualified.

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