Betting on the Next Pope
In recent years we have seen that it is perfectly possible for a Pope to step down from his duties and the Pontiff’s reign doesn’t have to last until his death. The current incumbent, Pope Francis is in the best of health as far as we know but there have been the occasional suggestions that he one day follow the lead of Pope Benedict XVI and step down of his own volition in the months that lie ahead.
This type of development has also led to increased interesting into the betting markets for the next Pope and even though this may well prove to be a longer-term punt, there is some good value for anyone looking to make an ante post bet.
It’s a tight market at the top with four selections all within two points of each other as the current favourite, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, starts in front of the pack at best odds of 8/1 with Coral. Cardinal Tagle hails from the Philippines but is only marginally ahead of the second favourite, Archbishop Angelo Scola at a top price of 9/1 with Betway.
Behind the top two we have two men locked at 10/1 and you can currently pick up Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal Peter Turkson at that best 10/1 figure with Coral. So that’s the top four but is there anything to suggest a clear winner or is the decision going to be as close as these prices suggest?
One popular theory is that the next Pope will be Italian: Although the Vatican City is technically its own country it is landlocked by Italy, a country so synonymous with the Catholic Church. At one point, the nation had something of a monopoly on the naming of the Pontiff but in the modern day, we have not had an Italian Pope since John Paul I in 1978.
John Paul II (Polish) followed in 1978 and was succeeded on his death by the German Benedict XVI in 2005. When Benedict stepped down in 2013, the current Pope Francis took over and he hails from Argentina.
It’s quite a basic theory and the official line is that those in power will pick the ‘best man for the job’ but if it’s a tactic that you subscribe to then Angelo Scola may be your man. The current Archbishop of Milan is an option to become the first Italian Pope for nearly, or possibly more than, 30 years.
To complete the list of CVs for the top four, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is currently the Archbishop of Manila, Peter Turkson is a Ghanaian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Marc Ouellet is the President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Another possible point to consider is age: Advancing years are no barrier when it comes to being named as Pope but if this is a debate that won’t be settled for a few more years, it may be better to back the younger man. In this case, that’s Luis Antonio Tagle who was 60 in 2017. In contrast, all other options among the top four are well into their 70s with the exception of Peter Turkson, who will celebrate his 70th birthday in October 2018.
Naturally there are more contenders than the four names that we’ve already mentioned and as we move through the market, Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell is on offer at best odds of 14/1 with Paddy Power. That’s still relatively close to the leaders and indicates just how tough your choice could ultimately be.
From there, prices start to stretch out a little and Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn at a top price of 16/1 with William Hill, Cardinal Sean O’Malley at that same 16/1 with Coral and Betway and Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller at a best of 20/1 with Betway are longer-priced options.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper novelty betting market without a little humour and Paddy Power have listed Bono at 500/1 plus Father Dougal Maguire, a fictional character in the TV series Father Ted, at that same 500/1.
However, it’s Coral who are the unlikely source of some of the more obscure suggestions and if you want to waste a little money, you have a series of bizarre names at 1000/1 including golfer Bubba Watson, former West Ham manager Alan Curbishley, TV Presenter Jeremy Clarkson and committed atheist Richard Dawkins.
Back to the serious business and this may be a bet where you require some inside knowledge of the workings of the Catholic Church. At the very least, a fair amount of research is going to be required but there is some top value in this market if you happen to call correctly.
The favourite, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is a popular figure and has age on his side at a time when the church would ideally want a long term Pontiff. However, Archbishop Angelo Scola at that 9/1 with Betway would mark a return to the establishment and the preference for Italian Popes.
Admittedly this is not a specialist area but it’s one where, if we’re going to commit to a name, the second favourite is the one that stands out.