The bets are in--Bush to win

Gamblers overwhelmingly back Bush at online betting site Betfair, which has a record of picking winners.

George W. Bush is heading for a surprise landslide victory in next week's presidential elections, going by online betting patterns.

Although U.S. opinion polls are still finding it hard to separate President Bush from his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, customers of Betfair, an online betting exchange, have overwhelmingly backed the Republican candidate.

Betfair's latest figures show 2.3 million pounds ($4.2 million) have been wagered on Bush, while Kerry has attracted only 680,000 pounds ($1.25 million) in bets. Bush is now at 1-5 odds to stay in office, whereas gamblers can still get odds of 2-1 on Kerry to win.

Betfair said its betting patterns are a more accurate indication of election results than the opinion polls. The patterns correctly predicted that Australia's Prime Minister John Howard would comfortably secure a surprise victory in last month's general election.

Mark Davies, director of communications at Betfair, said opinion polls only survey a small percentage of the population, who have no real incentive to provide accurate information.

"In contrast, Betfair's prices are based on people who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is," Davies said in a statement. "Our figures have proved to be an amazingly accurate indicator at both the Australian general election last month and the California governor's election last year. As a result, we're sure George Bush will be pleased to hear that Betfair's sharp-minded punters are backing him to the hilt."

Andy McCue of reported from London.

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