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The secret bookie: €108,000 in election betting in six days

Barely six days into the election campaign, the illegal betting circuit is hot with punters placing tens upon tens of thousands of euros in bets as to who will win the 3 June election

paul_cocks
Paul Cocks
9 May 2017, 12:30pm
The bookie explained that punters were only being offered one bet: Who will win the 3 June election – Labour or PN
The bookie explained that punters were only being offered one bet: Who will win the 3 June election – Labour or PN
Barely six days into the election campaign, the illegal betting circuit is hot with punters placing tens upon tens of thousands of euros in bets as to who will win the 3 June election.

One of the bookies operating out of Marsa who spoke to MaltaToday on Friday, said that he had been “running the election book” (accepting bets on the outcome of the election) since Tuesday morning, hours after Muscat announced the polling date.

“Since then, I have already received €108,000 in bets,” said the man.

Although this underground betting occurs on all major events – not only political – the prime minister’s decision to call a snap election seemed, at first, to have caught illegal bookies by surprise.

But it surely did not dampen the spirits and the adrenaline rush of the many hundreds of people who flocked to place their bets.

The bookie explained that punters were only being offered one bet: Who will win the 3 June election – Labour or PN. The odds he’s currently offering: 1.5/1 for Labour and 2/1 for the PN to win the election.

For the uninitiated, what that means is that for every €100 you bet on Labour winning, you win €150, besides getting your own money back. At the moment, for every €100 you bet on the PN winning, you would win €200, plus your stake.

Out of every bet, our bookie immediately pockets €200, irrespective of the stake. And the minimum bet he accepts is €500.

Placing a bet on the underground circuit is nothing like buying a Super 5 ticket or placing a bet through U*Bet.

First of all, the bookie will only accept to speak about the bet and odds with people he knows or with people introduced by someone he already knows.

That is, in fact, how we managed to get in to meet him.

And once you place your bet, all he gives out is a small chit of paper – with no identifying features – listing the amount of money staked, on whom you bet, and the odds offered on the day.

As for the kind of people who place illegal bets, our bookie says there is no one type, that people of all ages, backgrounds and upbringing have been clients of his for ages.

“I have cleaners placing as many bets as lawyers, doctors and teachers,” he told me. “And many of them have been placing bets like this for years, and not only on elections, but also on local football, Eurovision and horse racing.”

Regular odds from Betfair, but the Maltese cannot place a stake on this legal online betting company
Regular odds from Betfair, but the Maltese cannot place a stake on this legal online betting company
But why do people trust him not to run away with all this money?

The bookie looked at me quite seriously when I asked him this and said that he had been doing this for many years and that people had learned he could be trusted. Moreover, he said, if he were to “try and f**k some of his clients, they would f**k him up for good”.

OK, back to the election. So did the odds he was offering mean he believed the Labour Party would win?

“I do not set the odds as to my personal beliefs,” he said. “I have learned to listen to people, study surveys and polls and, in fact, the odds I am offering are quite in line with mainstream public thought.”

The bookie told us that slightly more bets seem to have been placed on Labour than on the PN so far.

“But the biggest bet up to now has been for €20,000 on the PN,” he said, meaning the man who placed the bet – “well-dressed in a suit and tie, probably a lawyer or doctor” – would win €40,000 if the PN won the election.

His experience tells him that the odds are sure to change by polling date.

The closer it gets to election date, the tighter the odds will get, so the earlier punters place your bets, the more you will win, if you do win.

I asked him if he wasn’t worried that the police would come knocking on his door one of these days.

“I know this is unregulated, but I do not consider this illegal, it’s not like I’m lending money or charging exorbitant fees,” he told me, explaining his convoluted logic. “I can do this only because there are no so-called-legal alternatives.”

And in that regard, he’s right.

Gertrude Borg Marks, PR Manager at Maltco Lotteries, confirmed that the company still does not list “any politically related betting on U*Bet”. 

And while some online betting companies like Betfair do offer odds on the outcome of the Maltese election, if you’re playing from Malta, you will not be allowed to place any bets on Maltese events.

The reasoning seems to be an attempt to curb possible graft and collusion.

Our bookie told us that there are others like him who were accepting bets on the outcome of the election, “definitely one in Luqa and in the Valletta Waterfront area.”

Those who might try their luck in the next election should know the risks. At stake is not just cash – and all transactions are, of course, strictly cash only – but worse: criminal implications due to the illegality of these bets.

paul_cocks
Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...