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Britain Greets New Prince in Old Style: By Placing a Bet

Britain Greets New Prince in Old Style: By Placing a Bet
24 Apr
6:53

“And, of course, we love a good, happy news story, so it’s nice to feel a part of it somehow,” she added.

Lately, the news stories around betting in Britain have not been happy.

On Tuesday, The Times of London reported that the British treasury would reduce the maximum bet on fixed odds betting terminals from about $140 every 20 seconds to around $3, sending share prices in betting companies plummeting. The betting industry had lobbied vigorously to stave off a crackdown on the machines, which generated a profit of $2.5 billion in 2016.

Last year, sports and betting companies were the top donors to members of Parliament, according to official declarations published in August. The Ladbrokes Coral group appeared more than 15 times on the register, more than any other donor. But the efforts did not save the terminals, dubbed “the crack cocaine of gambling” by one lawmaker.

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Members of the public sought to get a clear shot of the royal couple and their baby leaving the hospital on Monday. Credit Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Indeed, visits to five betting shops around London on Tuesday morning found not a single person who had bet on the baby’s name. Instead, gamblers sat riveted in front of terminals, feeding in money. Dave Rioux, 40, a hotel receptionist, said that betting shops were much more common on the streets of London than in Mauritius, where he comes from, and that he found himself gambling three times a week. He is trying to stop, he said, but “it’s hard to get out of the system.”

Late at night, he said, he sometimes sees bettors so distraught over their losses that they beat the machines with their hands.

Novelty bets” — on the color of the queen’s hat, for example — help bookmakers to rehabilitate their reputations, said Leighton Vaughan Williams, director of the Betting Research Unit at Nottingham Business School.

“It’s a positive spin on bookmaking in general,” Mr. Vaughan Williams said. “It gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling about betting, that it is a fun thing to do. It’s not a new thing. But it’s really a public relations exercise.”

Oddschecker, which compiles information from numerous bookmakers, offers odds on such possibilities as “Meghan to be photographed drinking a pint of Guinness,” “Confirmed that Meghan is pregnant before the wedding day” and “Any Spice Girl besides Victoria Beckham to attend the wedding ceremony.”

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The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired a World War I-era field gun during a 41-gun salute to mark the birth of the royal baby. Credit Adrian Dennis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Unlike sports betting, where the odds are driven by a small number of very large bets by professional gamblers, novelty pools attract a large number of small bets. In widely traded markets, the resulting odds reflect the “wisdom of crowds,” and are close to true probabilities, Mr. Vaughan Williams said.

In the case of Prince William’s two earlier children, bettors had gotten it right, showing a preference for George, and then, two years later, Charlotte, said Ms. Bridge, of Ladbrokes.

By Tuesday evening, Mr. Apati had spent his second full day updating the odds in public, this time outside Kensington Palace, and he was beginning to feel the wear and tear.

Arthur, he reported, was “slightly on the drift.” The name had peaked on Monday night, with odds of 7 to 4, but then the money began to flow to James, perhaps because people saw it as a better value. It was nearly sunset, and Mr. Apati was beginning to think that the name would not be announced until Wednesday.

“I was hopeful that it would be today,” he added, a little wistfully, “so that I could go to sleep.”

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