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Betting on the Pope


Updated February 12, 2013

Betting on the Pope

News that Pope Benedict XVI would step down at the end of February prompted a number of different reactions throughout the world. But for the bookmakers of Europe, it was the perfect situation to accept some wagers.

Less than 24 hours after the Pope's announcement, odds were posted on who Benedict's successor would be. Many of the candidates are logical choices, while many of the sportsbooks couldn't resist offering some off-the-wall choices, as well. We'll take a look at both categories.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are currently nine different sportsbooks accepting wagers on who the next Pope will be. These range from Bet365 to Paddy Power to William Hill. Expect other sportsbooks to get into the act, as well, as bookmakers are always looking for ways to generate additional revenue and publicity.

The Favorites

Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada) Ouellet is one of the two consensus favorites to take over as Pope. Ouellet is prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, which ranks him No. 3 on the Vatican depth chart. He is viewed as being close to Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Peter Turkson (Ghana) Turkson has a lot going for him and it is reflected in his odds, which are 5-to-2 at several sportsbooks up to a high of 4-to-1. Turkson was the favorite when Benedict XVI was elected Pope.

Archbishop Angelo Scola (Italy) Italians would love to reclaim the Papal throne and Scola appears to be the most likely of the bunch to do so. His odds range from 4-to-1 to 11-2.

Cardinal Francis Arinze (Nigeria) Arinze was an early favorite and still has low odds, ranging from 2.25-to-1 to 6.5-to-1, but his age of 80 may well work against him here.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Italy) Odds on Bertone range from 6-to-1 all the way to 14-to-1, but his age (78) could also work against him a bit.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (Argentina) His odds range from 5-to-1 to 10-to-1 and he heads the Vatican office for eastern Catholics, but often works behind the scenes, which may make it tough.

Of the contenders, the one who appears to have the most value is Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, at 5-to-1 or 11-to-2. He may not get the nod, but his true odds are better than those being offered.

The Longshots

What's a little bit of Papal betting if you can't have some fun with it? Here, we'll look at a few of the off-beat candidates.

Richard Dawkins Yes, you can wager on outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins to become the next Pope. Paddy Power is offering Dawkins at 666-to-1 odds.

Bono You can get 1000-to-1 odds if Paul Hewson is elected Pope Bono I. While the U2 front man would definitely add a little excitement to the Vatican, I doubt if he's ready to give up his other job just yet.

Oprah Winfrey It's pretty obvious the oddsmakers at England's Coral sportsbook have fun at their jobs. Not only were they the only sportsbook to offer odds on Oprah, they also allow you to wager on Bono, Bob Geldolf, or Jose Mourinho, coach of the Real Madrid soccer team. Odds on each of them are 1000-to-1, while Oprah, Madonna and Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli were all at 2000-to-1 odds.

Lance Armstrong Once again we have to go to Coral, where we'll find odds of 10000-to-1 on the bad boy of bicycling.

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