Australian media say election outcome told by bookies’ odds
By abigail
Political commentators in Australia are putting more and more stock in the trends of keen punters who are placing their bets on the impending federal election. The industry estimation is that gamblers will place bets worth Aus$2 million by the time the results are announced, and interest and the corresponding level of betting activity increases, commentators in the Australian press are pointing towards odds and betting trends in order to predict the result.

Leading Australian bookmaker Centrebet has apparently been incredibly accurate in predicting outcomes with the odds they offer. Offered as an example, is the election in 2001 where they took bets on the results of 47 marginal electorates, with the bookie’s favourites winning in 43 of the cases. In fact a book recently written supports the theory that instead of looking to political experts for the insight on a contest, looking more towards mass opinion is a better way of judging trends and outcomes.

Commentators in support of using bookies’ odds as a barometer of political contests in Australia, have cited the book’s central dogma- the book being “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki- to highlight why betting activity is such an important political signpost. In that book Surowiecki observes that: 'Under the right circumstances,' Surowiecki says, 'groups are remarkably intelligent and are often smarter than the smartest people in them. Groups do not need to be dominated by exceptionally intelligent people in order to be smart. Even if most of the people within a group are not especially well-informed or rational, it can still reach a collectively wise decision'.

The vested interest that gamblers have in the performance of their own funds means that often their bets are not merely down to political allegiance, but a more impartial opinion of who is most likely to win. As in the Bush and Kerry race in the US, trends in Australia have changed during the campaigning period, with punters responding to who is performing well at the time. In some sections of the Australian media they are using these factors, and citing the thinking outlined in Surowiecki’s book to support the idea, that instead of waiting anxiously for results to be announced, a winner of an election which has generated a healthy amount fo interest, can be clearly told the day before the election from the odds being offered by the larger bookies of a nation.

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