UK Brexit Becomes Most Gambled-On Political Event in British History

Posted on: June 20, 2016, 12:25h. 

Last updated on: June 20, 2016, 12:28h.

Brexit Betting becomes UK’s biggest political betting event
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Brexit betting markets have been hugely volatile but currently appear to point to a Remain vote on Thursday. (Image:

Bookmakers in the UK have said this week’s EU referendum, or “Brexit,” will be the most bet-upon political event in the country’s history, with at least $20 million expected to be staked on the outcome.

On Thursday, voters will decide whether the UK will remain part of Europe, or cut its ties with the EU and go it alone. Opinion seems to be sharply divided on whether to “Leave” or “Remain,” as the respective campaigns are known, with polls last week suggesting Leave had pulled out in front.

This week, though, it’s the Remain camp that has regained the momentum, the polls suggest, with a new surge of support driven perhaps by the shocking murder last Thursday of Pro-EU Member of Parliament Jo Cox, by a right-wing fanatic.

Truthful Bettors

Of course, if you really want to predict the outcome of a future political event, you need to ask a bookie. The betting industry has proved again and again that it can call these events with a far greater level of accuracy than pollsters.

For a start, they have at their disposal a far larger sample size of respondents offering their “opinions,” and this one already has the largest sample size of any. And yes, you have to think of each bet in a political market as an “opinion,” and a more truthful one, at that, than those generally offered in those notoriously unreliable poll surveys.

Bettors like to put their money where their mouth is and they generally bet on the outcomes that they would like to happen. Meanwhile, poll respondents just plain lie. And they do this for a number of reasons; most often because they are too embarrassed to admit that they haven’t got around to registering to vote, or because they are more interested in giving the answer they think the pollster wants to hear rather than their own opinion.

Volatile Markets

The bookmakers have had “Remain” pretty much leading the entire way, although the Brexit markets were described as “volatile,” last week by William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

Sharpe told the Press Association that 66 percent of all the money his company had taken referendum had been placed on Remain, but 69 percent of all individual wagers were for Leave, which makes predicting the winner all the more confusing.

But it looks a late surge of betting has tipped the balance in favor of Remain, and the betting industry currently believes that Britain will remain an EU member next week. It’s very close, though; Remain is leading but only by around 56.7 percent, and this one is likely to go right to the wire.

“We are expecting to see a big flurry of betting on Thursday, that’s what happened in the Scottish independence referendum,” said Sharpe.