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Bookies more reliable than opinion polls

Bookies more reliable than opinion polls
Highlights

Bookies More Reliable Than Opinion Polls. Despite India's prohibitions on gambling, betting is going unabated on who will be the next occupant of the prime minister's residence at 7, Race Course Road.

Many politicians find ‘satta market’ odds reliable

Illegal betting market worth Rs 3 trillion in 2012:KMPG

Punters favoring Modi at 6-5

Rs 120 will be paid on bet of Rs100 if Modi wins

Congress is badly placed in satta market

Rahul is placed at 2-1; For Rs 100 bet Rs 200 would be paid

New Delhi: Despite India's prohibitions on gambling, betting is going unabated on who will be the next occupant of the prime minister's residence at 7, Race Course Road.

With all set to the world's largest democracy going for polls next month, every opinion poll gives out numbers claiming theirs would be the closest one to yet to be declared election results. However, some election candidates rely on satta market (illegal bookies), who use little more than intuition to set the odds and their winning chances.

Bookies more reliable than opinion polls

"I feel that it can be relied upon more than opinion polls," Lalji Tandon, an opposition lawmaker in Lucknow, told reporters. "The fluctuations in the satta market paint a better picture of the mood of voters."

Tandon belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi, the man seen most likely to win the premiership. But there are no certainties in an election that boasts a diverse electorate of 815 million voters, with an array of regional parties muddying the contest between two main national parties.

Under the counter

"I prefer my opinion polls, not the ones that are in the newspaper and on television. You can't rely on them," said a smartly-dressed young gold trader who doubles as a bookie, speaking in his narrow and dimly-lit shop in Delhi's old quarter, where errand boys promptly serve tea and lemon water to every customer who enters.

The bookie, who wanted to be named, sets his odds by canvassing public opinion himself. "I have a social network. I am asking everyone."

For all that networking, India's forbidden bookmakers know how to avoid close scrutiny, even after a report by accounting firm KPMG and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimated the illegal betting scene was worth 3 trillion rupees in 2012.

So bookies are careful with whom they do business, only taking bets from people vouched for by a trusted contact.

They often operate out of jewellery shops, which provide a useful front for a business involving transactions of large amounts of cash, with single bets running anywhere between 5,000 and 5 million rupees.

Follow the money

Punters are currently offered odds for Modi around 6-5 against, which would pay out 120 rupees for every 100 rupees if he wins. His odds have narrowed from around 8-5 against three months ago. The ruling Congress is badly handicapped. A series of corruption scandals and economic growth hitting a decade-low has left voters disenchanted.

And the signs are that Rahul Gandhi, who has been appointed to lead the Congress campaign, lacks charisma in the match-up against Modi, the son of a tea stall owner.

His odds are given at 2-1 against, having widened from 9-5 three months ago. The only question at stake is whether the BJP will capture enough seats to convince potential coalition partners to join a government led by Modi.

Seat by seat

Betting market gives odds of 6-5 against for the BJP and its allies winning 250 seats, 22 seats shy of a majority. Congress and its allies are expected to get around half of that tally. "I know of many political leaders who keep watch on the satta for their constituencies during elections," said Tandon, who declined to say whether he himself kept track of the odds.

Pollsters may have a strict methodology for their surveys, but it is impossible to convert those percentage figures into accurate forecasts.

The credibility of opinion polls suffered a fresh blow last month when a local news channel ran a sting operation alleging that some pollsters fiddled data in return for cash.

The bookies odds favoured a Congress win in the 2009 election but, like the polls, underestimated the winning margin, while the Congress alliance's win in 2004 came out of the blue. Most also, failed to price in the Aam Aadmi Party's surprise victory in Delhi elections in December.

Sanjay Kumar of CSDS, a respected polling group with a strong track record of predicting vote share, scorned the idea that bookies were better. "They don't employ any methodology - it is just whatever comes into their mind. They are just making a wild guess."

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