Bookmakers bet on the 2004 presidential race

The Associated Press
Saturday November 11, 2000

LAS VEGAS — Forget about counting votes in Florida, a British bookmaker has its money on Hillary Rodham Clinton to return to the White House as soon as 2004 – as the president. 

How the current election marathon will unfold is anybody’s guess, said Graham Sharpe, spokesman for William Hill International, a well-established London bookmaker. 

“Our feeling was the current election is stalled, so why not get on with the next one,” he said. 

And they haven’t wasted any time. 

As soon as Clinton, the only first lady ever to be elected to office, made her acceptance speech for her U.S. Senate seat, the odds for her someday being elected president improved to 5-to-1, Sharpe said. 

“It’s a very popular bet,” he said. “Certainly her winning the Senate seat helped. We’ve probably taken a couple hundred, which is quite a lot on a prospective bet.” 

The line for the 2004 elections opened Wednesday while ballots still were being counted for Al Gore and George W. Bush. 

It’s been a record season for U.S. election bets, which Sharpe attributes to the close presidential race and the Internet.  

The bookmaker has taken more than $750,000 in bets this election season, via the Internet, telephone and its betting shops in the United Kingdom, Sharpe said. 

One gambler stands to collect about $48,000 if Vice President Gore ends up in the Oval Office in January. 

About a third of the company’s bets on the election are being placed via its Caribbean Island-based Web site, with a large portion of the wagers coming from U.S. bettors. 

Due to the interest betting on the U.S. presidential race generated, Sharpe predicted the bookmaker will take some individual bets on how states will vote in the 2004 election, Hillary Clinton or not. 

Some oddsmakers think the odds on New York’s new senator are too low. 

“I would make it higher than 5-to-1,” said Joe Lupo, who sets the betting lines for the Stardust hotel-casino’s sportsbook on the Las Vegas Strip. “At least 10-to-1.” 

The odds also depend heavily on who wins this election, Lupo said. 

“If Bush wins, I think she will definitely be a candidate,” he said. 

There will be a lot of “sentimental bets” on Clinton down the road to become the first woman president, Lupo predicted, but right now it’s too far in advance to generate a lot of attention. 

Before winning Tuesday, the odds on Clinton for president were 12-to-1, down from an original 50-to-1, Sharpe said. 

While it might be a popular bet among William Hill clients, it’s not a big money one, Sharpe said. The average bet is only about 20 pounds, or about $30. 

Without knowing the outcome of this year’s election, William Hill already is betting 8-to-11 that the 2004 presidential winner will be Republican, according to Sharpe. 

“We’re betting on the party, not an individual.” 

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