All bets on pontiff's successor are on
Apr. 6, 2005 12:00 AM
All things considered, the people of Paddy Power have behaved, they believe, with great restraint.
At the risk of seeming indecorous, the large Irish betting company suspended its online pope proposition - that is, betting on who will be the next pontiff - for three whole days as millions began mourning the death of the Holy Father. But now the "pope prop" is back on.
"Our feeling is we held off a few days and now the cardinals themselves are convening in Rome," said company spokesman Darren Haines, referring to the church officials who will select the next pope. "The ball is rolling."
And so in addition to wagering on the meaning of Britney Spears' bump and the color of the bonus ball in the Irish National Lottery, gamblers around the world can log onto paddypower.com, click on the Novelties section and put their money on Dionigi Tettamanzi, who is rating 11 to 4 odds in the race for the papacy. Or they can take their chances on Father Dougal Maguire of Craggy Island, Ireland, a long shot at 1,000 to 1.
"We do it very much in the same way as a horse race," Haines said. "Without sounding so callous, in a sense, we have contenders, and you very much rate the speculation on the contenders, very much by going on media reports in the religious press. ... Our trading manager is very clued up on this, though she hasn't had divine intervention."
A handful of online betting companies have opened the books for business.
At Pinnaclesports.com, wagers are being placed on age and nationality as well as the identity of the next pope. Because sports, even political ones, can be contentious, the site specifies that the winner will be "the man appearing at the central window of St. Peter's Basilica accepting the call of Habemus Papam (we have a pope) after the balloting concludes."
At betfair.com, if gamblers are unfamiliar with Godfried Danneels or Miloslav Vlk, they can simply click on the name and see each candidate's odds graphed over time in stock-chart fashion.
"The amount bet so far is 36,652 pounds (or about $68,744)," a customer-service representative said. "The favorite there is Tettamanzi, who I believe is from Italy."