Punters surer bet than pollsters
By ALEX EASTON
NATIONALS MP Ian Causley will comfortably hold the seat of Page at the Federal poll this Saturday, but Larry Anthony could lose his grip on the seat of Richmond.
Oh yeah, and John Howard will be returned as Prime Minister.
These predictions come not from pollsters and big surveys, but from Australia's major betting agency ? and the bookies say the smart money is on them.
On-line betting agency Centrebet has been running books on the seats of Page and Richmond, along with 29 other marginal seats, since the start of the campaign and has listed Mr Causley and the Coalition as comfortable election favourites.
The agency is quoting short odds of $1.15 for the Page MP, compared with $4 for Labor contender Kevin Bell; and $1.33 for the Coalition to win government, compared with $3 for Labor.
Mr Anthony remains the punters' favourite in the Richmond electorate on $1.70, but Labor challenger Justine Elliot is closing the gap, shortening her own odds from $3.60 to $1.90 during the first five weeks of the campaign.
And with only four days before polling day, Centrebet spokesman Mark Worwood said the outcome in Richmond remained anyone's guess.
Mr Worwood said punters tended to be better than pollsters at picking election winners, with favourites winning in 43 out of 47 marginal seats that had books run on them during the 2001 election.
The claim has been backed by research by Australian National University academic Dr Andrew Leigh.
Mr Worwood said the accuracy of betting odds came down to the amount of thought put into bets.
"It's not that surprising," Mr Worwood said. "With opinion polls people are asked on the street, it's over in a few seconds and they go away not that bothered.
"When people are placing money on an election they have done their research and they may be privy to more information than most people."
Mr Anthony said he would not accept bookies' odds as a way of predicting an election campaign, adding he believed Richmond would 'go down to the wire'.
Ms Elliot said she was encouraged to hear she was closing the gap with punters, but said it could not affect her campaign.
Mr Causley cautioned against putting much faith in the odds, saying Page had become a cosmopolitan electorate that did not automatically vote for the Nationals.
Mr Bell also questioned the figures, but said he was delighted with the long odds quoted on him.
"I might have to go and put a few dollars on myself if I'm at four-to-one. They're great odds," he said.