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McBookie.com, a Scottish online betting website primed to service the gambling needs of diehard football fans, has never seen anything like it.

All anybody wants to bet on is the outcome of the Scottish referendum. And most of the bets have been placed on a Yes vote.

But do betting markets influence how people decide to vote?

Graham Sharpe, of William Hill, is used to political parties phoning up in the run-up to elections to try to get the bookmaker to change their prices in the hope of generating momentum in their favour.

The odds have certainly shifted towards the Yes campaign. Before the second TV debate, William Hill priced the Yes campaign at 11/2 – £11 won on a £2 stake. On Saturday, this had shortened to 11/4 and after Sunday’s YouGov poll had come down to 7/4.

Its odds on a No outcome, once at an ungenerous 1/10 – £1 won on a £10 bet – are now at 2/5.

“We have as much influence as an opinion poll,” said Mr Sharpe.

Bookmakers adjust their odds based on the amount of money being wagered, trying to cover any potential liabilities, rather than on what they themselves think is the likely outcome.

Ladbrokes and other bookmakers stand to lose heavily if the Yes campaign does prevail.

According to Matthew Shaddick, Ladbrokes’ head of political betting, the betting markets are not a true reflection of the vote’s likely outcome. “The overwhelming amount of money is for the Yes campaign to win very easily,” he said.

Betting support for a Yes vote is based on what Mr Shaddick calls “over-optimistic nationalism” rather than a sober judgment of the likely result.

“The Yes campaign has less chance of winning than people think,” he said. “We have a fairly strong position that the No campaign is going to win.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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