How much would you be willing to bet on the sex of the baby expected to be born to Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton in the coming days? How about its hair color? Or where it will go to college?
Since Kate Middleton's much-anticipated pregnancy was revealed by her emergency visit to the hospital last December, the betting market has been flooded with "punters," as they're called, eager to place a pound or two (or much, much more) on all the various unknowns surrounding the birth of the royal baby. "It's going to be one of the biggest novelty markets of the year," says Rory Scott, the London-based spokesperson of the Irish betting company Paddy Power.
Scott estimates that the pools are 40-50 percent bigger than the market for Kate and Will's 2011 royal wedding. And while it may not post the numbers of the biggest sport events of the year, according to Scott, 350,000 pounds (over $500,000) have been bet so far in Paddy Power's royal baby markets, with some 10,000 pounds ($15,000) a day coming in as Middleton's rumored due date nears. Other betting firms are reporting similar numbers.
Bets on the royal baby's name are one of Paddy Power's biggest "Royal Special" pools, with "Alexandra” (7/4), "Charlotte" (5/1) and "James" (8/1) topping the odds. However, Scott says "Diana" (11/1) has actually taken the most volume of bets, many of them much smaller, perhaps reflecting a British desire to honor William's late mother, the beloved Princess Diana.
But from there the markets extend to the absurd, from the length of Middleton's hospital stay to the baby's hair color (brown is topping, but ginger, "a mischievous bet," Scott says, is still getting a lot of backing), as confirmed by the official birth announcement. And some look years – even decades – into the future, including the name of the baby's first boyfriend or girlfriend; the age of the child when he or she is first photographed at a night club; or whether he or she will represent Great Britain in the Olympics.
"They put their money on, hide their docket for a good 20 years and then they probably forget about it," Scott says.
The betting market has even spilled over to Middleton's sister, "the camera-hungry Pippa," as Scott puts it, with Paddy Power taking bets on how many times she will appear on camera during the announcement and what dress she will be wearing.
"Some of the crazier bets are more just to take the docket down to the pub and wave it around," Scott says. "It's a bit of fun, it's entertainment. Betting is in our bones."