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Shockwaves from U.S. presidential upset hit bookmakers hard

9 Nov 2016

By Gary Trask
We knew full well going into Election Day on Tuesday that the 2016 U.S. presidential race would be a historical betting event both for its volume and volatility. What we didn't know was that it would also go down as the biggest upset in political punting history. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, had been a decisive underdog throughout the campaign, including when he was listed as a 150-to-1 shot to win the White House when his campaign launched last year. Trump was still as high as a +550 underdog at 7 p.m. EST last night. But as the results poured in and the U.S. map on CNN began to light up in red, the change in odds was swift and dramatic. By 9 p.m., you could bet Trump at +360, and before the clock hit 10 p.m. he was a slight favorite for the first time. Before long, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was all of a sudden the longshot in the race and as Tuesday night turned to Wednesday morning, Trump was an astounding -1900 to become the 45th president of the United States. Soon after, he was at -2200 at some shops. In addition to devastating Clinton supporters, the stunning result hit hard some 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean at the offices of Paddy Power Sportsbook, which back on 20 October made the bold move of paying out $1 million early to Clinton backers as her odds fell to a low of 2/11 (84.6% chance of winning). The end result? A massive $4.5 million loss for the Irish bookmaker. "We're in the business of making predictions and decided to put our neck on the line by paying out early on Hillary Clinton, but, boy, did we get it wrong," said Paddy Power spokesperson Féilim Mac An Iomaire on the company's blog this morning. "We've been well and truly thumped by Trump with his victory leaving us with the biggest political payout in the company’s history and some very, very expensive egg on our faces." At William Hill Sportsbook & Racebook, there was similar despair. While the election was the biggest political event in the company's history after it took £5 million in bets, it was left with a six-figure loss after 70% of its political punters backed Trump to win. "The good news is that betting on politics is booming like never before," said William Hill's Graham Sharpe. "The bad news is that we seem to have some very shrewd customers betting on it and a six-figure loss on this market can now be added to losing outcomes on the recent EU Referendum, the last General Election and the Labour leadership campaign." Internet betting exchange Betfair Sportsbook & Racebook also reported record-breaking numbers as word became official in the wee hours of Wednesday morning that Trump would indeed pull off the upset. Calling the campaign reminiscent of the Brexit market earlier this year, Betfair spokesperson Barry Orr said on the company's website that "The past 18 months have seen some extraordinary things happen in the world of politics and this morning's Presidential Election was certainly no different." Orr added that although 60% of the money was staked on Clinton, 54% of the tickets were on Trump. "Initially this was attributed to bettors being happy to back an outsider because Brexit was so fresh in their minds," Orr added. "However, it appears that the opposite was true; the market simply could not accept that the status quo could be wrong again." Of course, in the U.S., betting on political races is not offered legally, much to the dismay of Nevada sportsbook directors. Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino assistant sportsbook director Jeff Sherman told Casino City earlier this year that this year's general election would have been "the largest thing we ever handled." "It would have blown the Super Bowl away," Sherman said.

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