The Sunday Leader

Placing Bets And Cashing In

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Many placed bets on the election result

The race is over and the results are in. By early morning on January 27, it was clear who was in the lead. Many Sri Lankans decided to treat the presidential election like just another race. Some cast bets on which of the two major candidates, incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa or common opposition candidate, General Sarath Fonseka, would come out on top.

And as results flashed on TV sets island-wide, skies filled with exploding fireworks and people danced in the streets, many cashed in on their bets. Or, perhaps, handed over their money with abject faces.

Perhaps the most high-profile of these is none other than Labour Minister Mervyn Silva. Lanka Journal reported that the controversial and outspoken Minister dared anyone to bet with him on the result of the elections, offering Rs. 40 million to anyone who would challenge his conviction that Rajapaksa would emerge triumphant. What’s more, he specified the property he would be willing to lose — “my brand new Benz car, Montero jeep, and others from my fleet of vehicles and my houses, including the one in Tissamaharama.”

It seems that no one took the Minister up on the challenge. If they did, they might have found themselves contributing to the Minister’s evidently considerable wealth.
On a much smaller scale, Mihiri, a student, bet Rs. 1000 on Rajapaksa winning. “It was a no-brainer. I knew he would win. My only regret is that I didn’t have enough money to place a larger bet with my friend!” Mihiri said. She said she would use the money on socialising with her friends. Aloka, a marketing executive, said he didn’t place any bets, simply because none would bet against Rajapaksa. “They all knew that if they did, they’d be paying serious money!” Aloka laughed.

One popular forum ElaKiri, a poster with the nickname “Snow Boy” bet Rs. 35,000 for Rajapaksa. When other posters ridiculed him, he angrily responded saying he had done extensive social research, and was betting on Rajapaksa not because he supported him, but because he thought he would win. He added that he had already bet Rs. 10,000 for the same result, but was unable to find anyone to take him up on the larger bet. On the same forum, fantasy bets were going strong, with people placing 2:1 odds on Rajapaksa and 3:1 on Fonseka. “3:1 is good odds for an underdog,” one poster commented.

There were few who decided to place their bets on the untried and untested Fonseka. Jeremy, a student who bet Rs. 5000, said he was ‘bullied’ into it by his friend, “and now I’m paying the price!” he laughed sheepishly.

A famous gem businessman from Ratnapura reportedly bet a whopping five million rupees on Rajapaksa’s re-election.

Sri Lanka is a country besprinkled with betting and gambling shops, so it’s no surprise that many decided to bet on the election. From the looks of it, however, most decided to place their money on the hotly-tipped favourite — and walked away the richer for it.

1 Comment for “Placing Bets And Cashing In”

  1. shielock holmes

    Some journos too took bets no?

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