Finnegan's Take

Irish bookmakers are betting the Lisbon Treaty will win between 60% and 65% of the vote in October’s (2nd) referendum on the issue, but are nervous about getting it wrong (again).

Paddy Power – Ireland’s biggest bookie – is offering odds of 1/6 on the Treaty being passed, citing the legal guarantees agreed in June by EU leaders of part of the reason that 87% of the cash gambled on the forthcoming referendum is backing a victory for the ‘Yes’ side.

But the story of last year’s referendum contains a cautionary tale.

Paddy Power lost €180,000 last time around as the company was so confident the Treaty would pass that it paid out before the vote had even taken place! No doubt this was partly a publicity exercise – but an expensive one given that they paid punters who backed the Treaty and those who bet against.

In early May last year, a month before the first referendum on June 13th, the odds of a ‘Yes’ vote were 1/7 but this had tumbled by the end of May. By June 6th 2008, support fot the ‘No’ side had gained momentum, to the point where it was now 8/13 (odds-on) that the Treaty would be rejected.

The week before the referendum, polls suggested the Yes side had rallied and the Treaty would pass by a narrow margin – hence the decision to pay out on the win.

(Apologies to non-gamblers for whom all these figures are meaningless. The point is that the bookies were wildly wrong in the months before the first vote.)

Sharon McHugh of Paddy Power tells us a re-run of the referendum was looking like an even contest when they first opened a book on a second vote but by the end of January 2009 the ‘Yes’ side was looking stronger at 1/3. Momentum has continued to build and the price has stabilised at 1/6 as punters piled in on the Yes side.

In the wake of the European elections, which saw Libertas frontman Declan Ganley bow out of politicis, the position of the Yes side was briefly even stronger than it is today with the price moving to 1/7.

Later this week, more detailed betting will be open for those who think they can call the margin of victory. The figures, exclusively revealed here in advance of going on, suggest a comfortable victory for the Yes side.

What % of the vote will the ‘Yes’ side get?

  • 5/1 50% or under
  • 5/1 50.01-55%
  • 9/4 55.01-60%
  • 6/4 60.01-65%
  • 7/2 65.01-70%
  • 8/1 70.01-75&
  • 12/1 Over 75%

However, as Sharon McHugh says, the experience of the last Irish Lisbon referendum shows how tricky it is to predict the whim of the people.

“The legal guarantees in Brussels definitely made a difference and traffic increased significantly on the back of the guarantees. But the Lisbon referendum re-run is sure to bring back painful memories for us. Last time out we were left with a hole in our pocket for more than €180,000,” she said.

The house usually wins, but not always…

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  1. What are the odds that we’ll just vote again in 6 months if there’s a no … 🙂

    An Irish Bedtime Story for all Nice Children and not so Maastricht Adults

    The Happy Family
    Once upon a time there was a family treaty-ing themselves to a visit in Lisbon.
    On the sunny day that it was they decided to go out together.
    Everyone had to agree on what they would do.
    “So”, said Daddy Brusselsprout “Let’s all go for a picnic!”
    “No”, said Aunt Erin, “I don’t want to”.
    Did they then think of something else, that they might indeed agree on?
    Oh yes they did?
    Oh no they didn’t!
    Daddy Brusselsprout asked all the others anyway, isolating Erin, and then asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to
    the park and eat out of a lunch basket….

    Kids, we’ll finish this story tomorrow, and remember, in the EU yes means yes and no means yes as well!

  2. Update: Paddy Power is now back to 1/6 for a ‘Yes’ vote. Still favouring the Yes side but showing signs of slippage.

    A report in the Sunday Tribune (a Dublin weekly broadsheet) suggests focus group results are showing the Yes vote as being ‘soft’.

    This means that those who say they will probably vote for the Treaty acknowledge that they are open to changing their minds. No voters, on the other hand, are generally firmer in their position.

    It’s going to be an interesting month…

  3. More excitement over at Paddy Power – having been 1/10 for the Yes vote, they are now offering just 1/4!

    This still means they think Lisbon will pass but there has been serious slippage. Note that this is beginning to follow the pattern seen during the last referendum when the Yes side looking comfortable but lost ground steadily right up until voting day.

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