Irish Bookie Pays Out Obama Bets Weeks Early

If Sen. John McCain wins the presidential election, an Irish bookie will be smacking himself in the face.

Shortly following the final presidential debate, Paddy Power, Ireland's largest bookmaker, declared Sen. Barack Obama the victor — and paid out accordingly, turning over more than $1,360,000 to Obama backers.

Power, who owns 260 betting offices across Ireland, explained that it wasn't the first time his company had paid out early.

"We've done it on many occasions before. We pay a little bit in advance when we think the race is all but run. It's kind of our way of putting our money where our mouth is and taking a gamble ourselves. If we get it right, people will say we called it right."

And if they get it wrong they'll be biting the financial bullet, while people will call them a wide array of Irish slang words. They've been there before. Recently, they paid out early on how the Irish people would vote on a European treaty.

"We got it wrong, so we looked like idiots with eggs all over our faces," he says, though he's not too concerned with the mistake.

"Everyone loves laughing at the bookies, so that was fine."

The presidential race seems like more of a sure thing to Power. Right now, McCain's "odds are drifting like a ship with no captain," while "Obama is 1 to 9, that means you have to put down $9 to win $1, that's how short he is. He's a red, red-hot favorite."

The election is over, in Power's eyes, so "the money is better off in the punters' pockets than ours," he says.

Some bettors took Obama when his odds were about even. Others had that famous luck of the Irish.

"One customer in particular must have had a crystal ball on his kitchen table because he had, back in 2005, he had 50 euro — $60 or $70 — on Obama at 50 to 1," says Power. "So he's won 2 1/2 thousand. He's pretty happy to get paid already with a few weeks to go."

The move could benefit Power as well; as long as the money is sitting in the bookkeeper's account, punters can't use it to bet on anything else. Feeling good about their winnings, bettors are likely to redirect their money into a new gamble — while giving Paddy Power some solid publicity.

"This is what we've been made famous for in Ireland," Power says. "So there's no reason we shouldn't try to spread our wings a little further than that."

Lately, Power is limiting bets on whether Obama will win — and encouraging bets on the exact number of Electoral College votes that will lead the Democratic candidate to victory.

If the presidential race gets tight in the final days, so will his stomach, he admits. Throughout the coming weeks, he'll be watching closely with the rest of his countrymen.

"As a political betting event this is bigger than our own election. ... Just shows there's a worldwide interest in it, in Ireland as well. Everybody is glued to the telly. The top story on the news every night is the U.S. election. The world is watching."

And in some places, trying to make a little money too.

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