Betting agencies are joining the queue of pundits who haven’t got a clue about the state election result
IT would be easier to pick winners at the blackjack table at the Adelaide Casino than predict the outcome of the March 17 election. No state election result has been more difficult to call.
When Nick Xenophon pulled his chair up with his SA Best candidates and demanded to be dealt into the game, the dynamics changed. Most pundits have a point of view about how the cards will fall on election day but the reality is no one has a clue.
The Premier, Jay Weatherill, predicts Labor will win more seats that the Liberals. But he didn’t say Labor would win government.
There is no point in relying on history or precedent to guess the result. The conventional pointers to the likely outcome were lost as the dealer shuffled Xenophon into the new deck.
On election day fortunes will be won and lost as the cards are turned over.
The election will be a delicate test of democracy as preferences rather than primary votes put members into Parliament.
Some members and candidates will win a four-year term in Parliament and with it a salary and additional benefits which will add up to close on $1 million. A solid result in the Legislative Council earns an eight-year term – and guaranteed payouts of nearly $2 million
But others, like unlucky gamblers at the blackjack table, are going to lose their seats, their reputations and their livelihoods.
Take the SA Best candidates. Mr Xenophon has demanded they each donate $20,000 to the party’s fighting fund to stand under the SA Best banner. That’s a lot of money. But a prize of $1 million in salary and perks for an investment of $20,000 represents pretty good odds.
If the betting agency Ladbrokes is any guide, Liberal candidates could be dealt the best cards. Ladbrokes have the Liberals at $1.85 to form government, which assumes the party will win the largest number of seats in the 47-seat House of Assembly. Labor’s odds are $2.20 while SA Best is on $6.50.
Ladbrokes say the chances of a hung Parliament – with SA Best holding the balance of power and essentially dictating which major party will govern – is $1.60 while $2.30 are the odds on one of the majority parties governing in its own right.
But the betting agencies are simply joining the queue of pundits who haven’t got a clue about the result. What looks possible or likely now will al- most certainly change in the final two months and two days before the election.
World poker champion Doyle Brunson once said: “Try to decide how good your hand is at a given moment. Nothing else matters. Nothing.” That moment is election day.
Former Liberal leader and Labor Cabinet Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith threw in his cards after heeding an old Chinese proverb: “If you must play, decide upon three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stake and the quitting time.”
You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them. Mr Hamilton-Smith sensed his time was up.
There will be more cruel cards dealt in this game. For example, Mr Xenophon is likely to run candidates against Mr Weatherill in Cheltenham and the Opposition Leader, Steven Marshall, in Dunstan. Mr Weatherill is unbeatable but Mr Marshall could be vulnerable against a presentable SA Best candidate backed by a professional campaign and Labor preferences. Mr Marshall may turn over his cards nervously on election day.
Imagine if the Liberals did well in the election but lost their leader? In this unpredictable election anything is possible.
And what if SA Best won a handful of seats but Mr Xenophon failed to win the seat of Hartley? Ladbrokes are offering $1.40 on Mr Xenophon compared with $2.90 for the Liberal member, Vincent Tarzia.
As professional gambler Nicholas Dandalos said: “Remember this. The house doesn’t beat the player. It just gives him the opportunity to beat himself.”
On March 17 there will be precious few winners and an army of losers. At blackjack, the house never loses.
TAKE A PUNT: Picking the winner of the state election is harder than a game of blackjack, writes Rex Jory.