British bookmakers began taking bets on Kate Middleton's firstborn as soon as the announcement of her and Prince William's engagement was confirmed. It's considered a "novelty market," as are all other royal-themed wagers — alongside gambling on reality TV shows or what single will top the British pop charts at Christmas, for example — and doesn't provide much in terms of profits for the companies. The average bet comes in at around £1, by "people wanting to take their slip down to the pub and give their mates a laugh," Rupert Adams of leading bookmaker William Hill explained. Wagers often skew toward the likeliest options on available markets. But they still provide quite a lot of fun and good press all around.
Spokespeople from some of the country's leading bookmakers, including Betfair, William Hill, and Ladbrokes, all confirmed that early bets about a future monarch's birth focused on 2014. That is, until fervent baby-watchers started noticing telltale signs suggesting otherwise. When Kate visited a UNICEF distribution center in Denmark late last year, she declined a sample of peanut paste — pregnant women are often told to avoid the nuts lest their children develop allergies. Even though palace officials later explained Kate just didn't want to eat gooey food in front of the cameras, a flurry of bets on a 2012 birth flew in. False alarm, though. Womp womp.
This summer, speculation renewed thanks to various events, including when Kate was spotted:
• looking a little bloated (poor thing).
• drinking water in place of wine.
• with a new hairstyle.
• wearing dresses that appeared to have been let out a little.
• popping into her local Boots pharmacy to pick up some rapid response pregnancy tests.
(OK, kidding about the last one, obviously — she had a butler run that errand on her behalf.) William Hill saw a large number of bets made after Prince William accepted a baby's romper suit as a gift from a well-wisher on a recent tour of Cambridge. And thousands of bets came in last Monday upon the duchess's admission to the hospital with what was later confirmed to be acute morning sickness.
Punters are now also betting on many other details surrounding Kate's baby's birth: name, gender, weight, hair color, eye color, what magazine will land the first photos, and who the kid's godparents will be. The odds on twins shortened dramatically after news that Kate's condition is often a sign of a multiple birth in the works — originally at 33/1, the odds are now much tighter, at 11/2. (If Kate does have twins, it'll cost the bookies a lot.)
You can also bet on what time of day and/or day of the week the little prince/princess will come into the world, and William Hill even offers odds on whether Kate "will be too posh to push." Because she's from hearty middle-class stock, most folks seem to think she'll manage a natural birth.
More unique waivers will also be accepted — on the baby's first words, for example ("one crown to rule them all, one crown to find them...," etc.), to that there'll be big vaginal hats worn to the christening. But only lighthearted, tasteful wagers, that is; no "grim stuff," like the baby dying, says Alex Donohue at Ladbrokes. And people have tried; a common disallowed bet in the run-up to Will and Kate's wedding was that there'd be a terrorist attack on the day. (But you also can't even bet on whether the baby will be gay.) In a similar vein, the tragic news of nurse Jacintha Saldanha's death put a real damper on all baby-themed betting — all the bookmakers reported considerably less action over the past week. Assuming Kate gets papped with a baby bump in latter stages of her pregnancy, however, they expect money to flood back in.
The baby's name is drawing the heaviest betting — bookies expect a few hundred thousand pounds' worth of bets made in total on whether Brits will be set for a new King Arthur, or perhaps Elizabeth III. Traditional names are seen as most likely, thanks to William's "conservative tastes." (He'll ask Prince Charles for advice, and Kate will demur to their collective opinion, apparently.) Though I'm continuing to champion the idea of a Queen Latifah as future monarch, sadly no one agrees with me, and the silly names some celebrities bestow on their kids aren't picking up much money at all — the name Chardonnay, for example, is at 500/1. Apples, Peaches, and other assorted fruity monikers don't even feature.
Having crunched all the numbers available at the top bookies' websites, though, clear trends in all markets are apparent. The following scenario seems most popular at the moment: a brown-haired boy named George to be born on a weekday next June, weighing in the seven-pound range. The first photos of the young prince — whose godparents will be Prince Harry and Pippa Middleton — will appear in Hello magazine.
On the flip side, it's extremely unlikely we'll see four ginger girls, named Chardonnay, Sharon, Charlotte, and Britney (come on now, people, Brit Brit is love) delivered on a Sunday in July, each weighing under five pounds. Those unlikely quadruplets' godparents would include Prime Minister David Cameron and Victoria Beckham, with their baby-photo exclusive going to either Nuts or Zoo Weekly, two of the U.K.'s vilest "lads mags." (Interestingly, while Posh Spice is seen as quite the godparent long shot, at 1,000/1, husband David has much better prospects — 50/1 or better. All the bookmakers expect, however, that it'll be lesser-known posh friends of the couple who land the honors. Various van Cutsems, yes, relatives of meme-worthy royal bridesmaid Grace, have some of the best odds.)
Inspired by it all, I went to my local bookies to place a wager last night: KMid's baby boy to wed Harper Beckham. The small shop smelled of body odor and stale smoke; four older men watched TV screens showing greyhound races intently — cheering when their stakes won, swearing when they didn't, and running to the counter and back between each race to spend any winnings all over again. One had even bought a greyhound crossbreed with him, and the dog sniffed my boyfriend's crotch while I placed my bet.
The clerks found my bet unbelievably hilarious — emphasis on unbelievable. They'd never had anyone bet on anything monarchic before, and they grew more confused when I explained I write for an American website: "Do Americans even know about the royals? I mean, I know we all know about Obama and we're like, 'yay Obama' sometimes, but that's crazy, and this is so different." Everyone loves Kate Middleton, I explained. "Who knew? [laughs] Well, she does have nice hair."
"Oh my God, oh my God, that is the craziest bet ever. Ever. You just made my day, seriously, my day. I'm putting it on Facebook. Are you even going to keep your betting slip that long?" cawed one, who then took my photo. Her colleague didn't even know who Harper Beckham was and, glassy-eyed, had me repeat my bet over and over before making me write it down. "This is serious, right?" he asked. You could tell he expected me to run out giggling, pranker-style, while he called his head office (to confirm the "special bet" and provide my odds — a staggering 10,000/1).
But I was for real, and £3 worth of loose change later, I had my betting slip all set:
Wish me luck, because I could be in for quite the windfall in 25ish years' time. And then baby Prince Arthur and Harper Seven will dance their first dance as a married couple to the tune of "2 Become 1" and my world will be complete.
And in other KMid baby news, Morrissey is a dick.