The Racing Card

The Bet - How many more seats will Labour win than the Tories at the next election

(Source: City Index)

Spread betting started among City traders and has now become a multi-million pound business. It may seem complicated to the novice but is actually very simple. For example, at the last general election the Sporting Index spread opened up at 70-80 Labour. If you thought that the Labour majority over the Tories would be more than 80 you would "buy" seats at, say, £10 each. Then you would make £10 for each seat in Labour's majority above 80.

Labour won 253 seats more than the Tories, so at 173 over the 80 you would have pocketed £1,730. While you can make a pile of money if you get it right you can also lose a lot if you get it wrong. On the same bet, if the Labour majority over the Tories had been only 20 seats, you would have had to give the bookies £10 for each seat less than the 80. That's £600. You've been warned!

But today's spread, 120-125, is still good value and as I think the majority will be bigger than 125 I'll be buying seats.

There have been some spectacular coups against the spread bookies by some punters. For example, you used to be able to bet on the time of the first throw-in of a football match. On average this usually comes after about one minute. If you thought it would be earlier, you would "buy" seconds; if later, "sell". This all ended when it was alleged that West Ham players deliberately kicked the ball out of play after just six seconds. It was never proved that the players were in on a betting coup but the bookies certainly thought they were.

I still regret not having a few quid on Labour seats at the last election. Labour's pollster told me days before the result that we were in for a landslide. But I suppose I would have been guilty of insider dealing.

Charlie Whelan