Bookmakers Take Pope Bets After Benedict XVI Retires

Posted By: Date: 02/14/2013 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

The world was shocked on Monday, February 11, when Reuters broke the news that Pope Benedict XVI, at 85 years of age, had announced his decision to retire. The Pope offered a statement that said his waning strength and advanced age were conflicting with his ability to fulfill his role as the Catholic world leader. There is much to be done in the coming weeks, and for many that means visiting their favorite online sports book to partake in what’s been commonly termed “Pope Betting”?.

All of the major online bookmakers wasted no time in deciphering the odds and posting bets on the outcome of the Papal race. With 117 eligible Cardinals up for the new position, it didn’t take long to discover who the clear favorites are.

Initially, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, South Africa, was the favored candidate. At 64 years of age, Turkson would be the first black Pope to take up residency in the Vatican. Turkson was given the most favorable odds of winning at the onset of the Pope Betting extravaganza, listed at 4 to 1 at both Ladbrokes and Paddy Power, but a new candidate since took over the number one spot of most likely to “succeed”?.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet is now the forerunner, according to both Ladbrokes and Paddy Power bookmakers, listed at odds of 3 to 1 and 7 to 2 respectively. Canadian Cardinal Ouellet is 69 years of age and appears to be held in very high regard by both Catholics and online bettors. The only thing working against Ouellet is the fact that he is not from Europe.

There are many experts who argue that Pope Benedict XVI’s successor will be a native European. It is clear throughout history that the College of Cardinals, who are responsible for all Papal voting, have very heavily favored European candidates. In the same token, there are analysts who believe the College will look beyond origins at the person beneath the red zucchetto, and still others who believe a non-European Pope is imminent to prevent an outcry of prejudice.

If we look at the statistics, according to the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Europe only lays claim to 25% of that population, whereas South America is home to 42%. The country of Brazil alone has more Catholics than Italy, France and Spain combined. Whether the newly elected Pope will reflect those numbers or not remains to be seen.

With that said, bookmakers have set Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71, of Milan, Italy as the next most favorable to become the new Pope. Ladbrokes lists the European Scola at odds of 5 to 1, while Paddy Power gives him 4 to 1 odds, tied with Africa’s Cardinal Turkson.

To make things a little more interesting, or at the least more amusing, bookmakers are adding some extreme longshots to the list of papacy potential. For example, at Ladbrokes, bettors have the option of placing a 500 to 1 wager on the election of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minster of Britain. Paddy Power has set 1,000 to 1 odds on Bono, lead singer of the popular Irish rock band, U2.

Other novelty bets are being devised as well, especially at Paddy Power, such as the Papal name of the Pope-to-be, led by “Peter”? with even odds. The length of the Conclave is bringing in odds of 2 to 1 for a 1-day convening. The next Pope’s country of origin pays 11 to 10 for Italy and 9 to 4 if he’s a native of Africa. There is also Pope betting on the age range of Benedict XVI’s successor, with “65 or under”? leading the way at 5 to 2.

Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of retirement marks the first time in 600 years that a Pope has resigned from his station, rather than passing away in office. The College of Cardinals is expected to convene at the Conclave in the Sistine Chapel sometime in March, where they hope to elect a new Pope no later than March 31, Easter Day.