What do the next manager of Arsenal and the soon-to-be fifth in line to the throne have in common?
One will be one of Europe’s top football managers, paid millions of pounds a year to steer Arsenal back into the Champions League and – sooner rather than later – back to the top of the Premier League. The other one isn’t even born yet – we don’t even know if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s third child will be a boy or a girl.
But they have one simple thing in common – you can bet on them.
Last week, Arsene Wenger confirmed that after 22 years in charge, he would be leaving Arsenal at the end of this season. The bookies wasted no time in opening a “Next Arsenal manager” book and £5,000 was traded on Betfair within an hour of Wenger’s announcement.
Rather earlier than that – on September 4 last year – Kensington Palace announced that the Duchess of Cambridge was expecting her third child, a brother or sister for four-year-old George and two-year-old Charlotte. And punters are busily placing their bets on the baby’s name.
So who are the favourites?
Luis Enrique is steadily shortening in the betting – that’s for the Arsenal gig, not the name of the royal baby. The former Barcelona boss has been well backed over the last few days and is favourite ahead of ex-Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti and Joachim Loew, the manager of the German national team – who would presumably not be able to take over until after the World Cup.
Meanwhile, betting is hotting up on the name of the next HRH – especially because (as I write) the Duchess of Cambridge has gone into labour. If it’s a girl Mary, Alice and Victoria are favourites. Those punters who think the congratulations cards will be blue are backing Arthur, Albert and Frederick.
Are these sensible bets for bookmakers to take?
With all these markets (so-called novelty, or speciality, bets) the bookmakers must know that they are taking a significant risk – specifically, inside information. If the bookmakers are betting on the 2:30 horse race at Kempton, there is every chance they know all there is to know about the race. A certain trainer may have readied his horse for a gamble in the race, but given the bookmakers’ excellent intelligence networks, the gamble will quickly become apparent.
But William and Kate obviously know what they are going to call their child. Any parent will tell you that they go into the delivery room with the name of the baby already decided. I distinctly remember my wife telling me which name I liked best.
Similarly, the Arsenal board of directors will already have a shortlist of names – and you would suspect some high-profile names attracting serious bets are not even on the shortlist.
Sooner or later a bookmaker is going to take a bet from a gambler that is “in the know”. The staff at Kensington Palace must have an inkling of the name. Something will leak from the Emirates boardroom.
That’s not to say these markets cannot be profitable for bookmakers – but what they do guarantee is considerable publicity and column inches.
James Bond and aliens
But it’s not just babies and football managers you can bet on. There is always a healthy market on the next Dr. Who – and Daniel Craig cannot go on for ever. Right now, James Norton – of “McMafia” fame – and Tom Hardy are 3/1 joint favourites to take over as the next 007.
And then there are the punters who believe they have inside information – who have been contacted by inter-stellar high command and firmly assured that an alien invasion is imminent. Back in 2010 bookmakers William Hill took the possibility so seriously that they suspended bets on an alien landing, as a flurry of internet activity and speculation left them with seven-figure liabilities, including one punter who wanted to place a £3,000 ($4,200) bet at odds of 1,000/1.
Another punter actually appealed to the Ministry of Defence for confirmation of an alien landing after Ladbrokes refused to pay out. Unsurprisingly the MoD were unable to help him.
Betting on an alien landing has always seemed slightly stupid to me. What is the point of a winning bet if life on earth is about to be wiped out? Equally it seems unlikely that an 83-year-old Elvis Presley will now be found alive. But at some point today a royal baby will be born, and it will have a name. Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen…