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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK
Bets open on Benedict's successor
By Peter Gould
BBC News, Vatican City

Paddy Power
Mr Power is already taking bets on Pope Benedict's successor
Pope Benedict has only been in the job one day but a book has already been opened on his successor.

Odds are being offered by Paddy Power, the Dublin-based bookmaker, who earned the displeasure of the Vatican by taking bets on this week's election.

Just before the conclave, he was escorted from St Peter's Square by security staff after displaying his prices.

Despite his brush with the Holy See, the firm took over $382,000 (200,000) in bets on the outcome.

"The chance to bet on the papal election seemed to catch the imagination of the whole world," said Mr Power as he strolled around the Vatican in the Rome sunshine.

Odds on the next Pope
Cardinal Scola
Angelo Scola 6-1
Christoph Schonborn 7-1
Oscar Maradiaga 7-1
Jorge Bergoglio 9-1
Francis Arinze 10-1
Dionigi Tettamanzi 25-1
source: bookmaker Paddy Power

"It was the biggest non-sports betting market of all time."

The cardinal elected Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, was the second-most popular choice among punters.

He opened at 12-1, but his odds quickly shortened. By the eve of the conclave he was the 3-1 favourite.

So the punters got it right while many of the Vatican experts were proved wrong.

Mr Power ended up paying out 77,000 in winnings on the Bavarian-born pope but is not unhappy.

He says the election of Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria would have cost him far more because he was so popular with punters.

Betting within limits

With Benedict XVI now in office, many people are wondering how long the 78-year-old pontiff will reign. Because of his age, he is seen by some experts as an interim pope.

But Mr Power says people should not read too much into the decision to open a book on the new pope's successor.

He points out that the firm was taking bets on the papal succession five years before the death of John Paul II.

Like any event when a champion is crowned, we have resumed betting on his likely successor
Paddy Power
"Judging by the requests we have received, people are already looking to have another go, possibly to re-invest their winnings," he said.

"Like any event when a champion is crowned, we have resumed betting on his likely successor."

The punters' favourite, Cardinal Arinze from Nigeria, remains in the reckoning at 10-1. Mr Power says the African is certain to attract wagers because of prophecies that the next Pope will be black.

But while Mr Power will give you odds on just about anyone becoming pope, he is not taking bets on when the next conclave will be.

"Now that would be in bad taste," he said.


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