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Prince William, Kate Middleton
Sang Tan  /  AP
Prince William and Kate Middleton aren't even married yet — that will take place April 29 — but some Britons are already betting they will end up getting divorced.
updated 1/21/2011 8:08:17 AM ET 2011-01-21T13:08:17

Two of the favorite pastimes in Britain — royal-watching and betting — are morphing into one raucous market centered on the royal wedding.

Prince William and Kate Middleton aren't even married yet — that will take place April 29 — but some Britons are already betting they will end up getting divorced.

The odds are unlikely, the topic is disrespectful but when two people disagree on a subject, it's time to lay some money down.

"There's a real tradition of betting on what the royals will do next," said Darren Haines, a spokesman for bookmaker Paddy Power. "The U.K. has a strange fascination with the royals."

One of the most popular wagers for the past several years has been on if, when and where Kate and Wills would marry. After news of their engagement broke in November, the when — as in, what month — brought in 30,000 pounds ($48,000) worth of bets for Ladbrokes, spokesman Alex Donohue said. The where — now confirmed as Westminster Abbey — drew about 15,000 pounds ($24,000) worth of wagers for the betting firm.

With those questions answered, bookmakers are looking to capitalize on the royal wedding mania by adding novelty bets before more details emerge.

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Middleton will arrive at her wedding ceremony by car and leave by carriage, so she won't have to worry about the current odds of a Tube strike on her wedding day. Will she walk into Westminster Abbey right on time, be three minutes late, or make guests wait 11 minutes for a glimpse? How long will the train of her dress be? Gamblers are invited to place bets on all the above.

Most bookmakers are running a variation of the divorce question, with almost certain odds that the couple will make it to their 10th anniversary.

London retiree Lisa Barret thinks that's an "awful idea" for a market.

"You don't gamble on something like someone's marriage," the 55-year-old said while out shopping for groceries in London.

Bookmakers beg to differ and are eagerly considering suggestions for additions to the "wedding special" options as April 29 approaches. It might seem that nothing is off limits yet even bookmakers draw the line somewhere — rejecting wagering on the likelihood of a terrorist act on the day of the ceremony.

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"We don't look to bet on anything that's distasteful so we refused that request," Haines explained. "This is all about fun."

Slideshow: A royal couple’s long courtship (on this page)

The average wager — 3.5 pounds ($5.50) — reflects that gamblers are betting money they don't mind losing, a spokesman for bookmaker William Hill said.

"Its largely people speculating, more for fun and a conversation piece than those who are genuinely expecting to make money," said Rupert Adams.

London accountant Rana Theva is not surprised by the betting fervor.

"People will place bets on just about anything," the 34-year-old said. The 'X Factor' (singing competition), horses, lotteries... So why not the wedding?"

William Hill is looking to add 3 or 4 new wedding specials a week. Bets are still open on the location of William's stag party and who his bachelor brother Prince Harry will take to the wedding as his date.

But since they never know when the palace — or the tabloids — will spill the beans, betting is time-sensitive. Wedding-special markets need constant review because, unlike a football or rugby match, decisions are already in the works.

Betting on the couple's honeymoon destination closed down at William Hill on Jan. 10 after an attempted wager of 5,000 pounds ($8,000) in favor of Kenya by a new account raised red flags.

"Nobody would risk 5,000 pounds unless they knew already that they were definitely going to go to Kenya," Adams said. "Whether it was someone from Kenya ... a (real) estate agent ... who knows? We were uncomfortable to bet on it."

The market is "pretty quiet" so far, he said. William Hill has seen about 1,750 wedding-related bets worth about 27,883 pounds ($44,200) placed since news of the engagement.

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By comparison, more than 300,000 pounds ($476,000) worth of bets were placed during the final episode of Britain's beloved "X Factor." Still, Adams said he expects volume to ramp up heavily right before the wedding.

"The vast majority of people placing a bet want to place a bet and get a result within a short period of time," he explained. "They'll probably wait until the last minute."

After all, the public won't know until at least April 29 if James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" — the odds-on favorite for the couple's first dance — was in fact chosen.

Bookmakers' core client base — typically male, betting on sports such as horse and dog racing — might not know the difference between Blunt's ballad and Bryan Adam's "Everything I Do," which is also on offer.

But the royal wedding market gives the country's betting houses a rare chance to draw in female customers.

"Reality TV and royal wedding (bets) appeal to women because its what they read about, its what they're interested in," Paddy Power's Haines said.

Walking into a Ladbrokes shop in central London, Will Tanner called the wedding-special market "absolutely barking mad."

"Why would I want to bet on shoes and dresses?" the 47-year-old health worker said. "It's a little too girly for me, a little too soft. Not like horses."


Tamara Baluja contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: A royal couple's long courtship

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  1. William and Kate

    On April 29, 2011, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married, eight years after they first met at university. The prince popped the question five months earlier to his longtime girlfriend during a vacation to Kenya. Take a look at their top moments.

    Official wedding photo The online version of the royal wedding's official program includes a never-before-seen portrait of the couple, shot by Mario Testino. Testino also shot their official engagement pics. (Mario Testino / Art Partner) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A pre-wedding outing

    Kate Middleton, or the Duchess of Cambridge as she is known after the wedding, waves as she walks with Prince William in Darwen, England, on April 11, less than three weeks until the royal wedding. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Royal couple mania!

    Excited fans line up to see Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in Darwen, England, on April 11. The prince was in the town to officially open the school. (Lindsey Parnaby / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Weather or not

    Heavy rain didn't prevent Kate Middleton and Prince William from thrilling the crowd that gathered to see them as they arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in northern England on April 11. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A perfect flip

    Prince William looks on as Kate Middleton tosses a pancake during a visit to City Hall on March 8, 2011, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Indigo / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wedding blooms

    Britain's Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, speak to wedding florist Rachel Gibson during a visit to the Greenmount Agriculture & Food College, in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on March 8, 2011. (Paul Faith / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Remembering Christchurch

    Prince William looks on as his fiancée Kate Middleton signs the book of condolence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquake at the New Zealand High Commission in London. (David Parker / WPA Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Romantic homecoming

    Prince William and Kate Middleton returned to the university where they met and fell in love on Feb. 25 with an official visit to St. Andrews on the east coast of Scotland. (Danny Lawson / WPA Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pouring some bubbly

    Prince William and his blushing bride-to-be Kate Middleton performed a bit of royal duty, making a rare public appearance in Anglesey, Wales to christen Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station’s brand new lifeboat, the "Hereford Endeavour" on Feb. 24, 2011. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Official engagement portraits

    The couple pose in their official engagement portraits, taken by photographer Mario Testino in the Cornwall Room at St James's Palace in London on Nov. 25, 2010. (Mario Testino / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Engaged at last

    William and Kate pose for the media at St. James's Palace in London on Nov. 16, after they announced their engagement. The couple are to wed April 29, 2011. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Diana's ring

    This close-up shows that the engagement ring Prince William gave Kate Middleton was the one that had belonged to his mother, Princess Diana. The ring is an oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds. (Paul Hackett / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Royal couple

    Months of speculation about William and Kate's engagement grew more intense when the couple attended Harry Meade and Rosie Bradford's wedding at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul on Oct. 23, 2010, in Northleach near Cheltenham, England. (Indigo via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Chic chapeau

    In an eye-catching hat, Kate Middleton attends the wedding of Nicholas van Cutsem and Alice at The Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks on Aug. 14, 2009, in London. Middleton had been named to Vanity Fair's international best-dressed list in July 2008. (Indigo via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Wedding guests

    Prince William and Kate Middleton attend the wedding of friend Chiara Hunt in Salzburg, Austria, on Sept. 6, 2008. Two years and two months later, it was announced that the prince and his longtime girlfriend had finally become engaged. (Ikon Pictures via Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A jolly good time

    Prince Harry, Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall laugh together as they watch the Order of the Garter procession at Windsor Castle on June 16, 2008. (Tim Graham / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Together again

    Prince William and Kate Middleton at a Royal Air Force graduation ceremony held at RAF Cranwell, England on April 11, 2008. Middleton's accompanying the prince as he was awarded his RAF wings was a clear indication that the couple had reconciled after a widely reported split a year earlier. (Michael Dunlea / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A day at the races

    Kate Middleton attends a horse race at the Cheltenham Festival in Gloucestershire, western England, in this March 16, 2007, photograph. (Eddie Keogh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. On the slopes

    Prince William and Kate Middleton were spotted skiing in Klosters, Switzerland, on March 19, 2008, one of a number of public appearances together that showed that they had reconciled after a reported April 2007 breakup. (Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. They're off!

    Prince William and Kate Middleton on the first day of the Cheltenham Race Festival in Gloucestershire, on March 13, 2007. One month later, the media reported that Middleton and the prince had broken up. (Stephen Lock / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Separate seats

    Prince Harry (front left) and Prince William (on Harry's left) are clearly enjoying a performance at the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium in London on July 1, 2007. So is Kate Middleton (upper right corner). At the time, rumor had it that William and Kate had reconciled after their split in April 2007, but they sat separately, insisting that they were "just good friends." (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Sports fans

    Prince William and Kate Middleton attend a rugby match in London in this Feb. 10, 2007, photo. (Richard Heathcote / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Paparazzi prey

    Photographers snap pictures of Kate Middleton as she leaves her Chelsea home on Jan. 9, 2007, her 25th birthday. The growing media attention that she attracted at this time prompted warnings to the press from Prince Charles, Prince William and Middleton's lawyers. As a result, two newspaper groups decided to cease publishing paparazzi photos of Middleton. (Solo via ZUMA Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Lady in red

    Kate Middleton arrives at the Sovereign's Parade at The Royal Military Academy in Camberley, west of London, on Dec. 15, 2006. (Ben Gurr / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Guest of honor

    Kate Middleton is seen at the wedding of Laura Parker Bowles and Harry Lopes at St Cyriac's Church, Lacock on May 6, 2006, in Wiltshire, England. (Tim Graham / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Model behavior

    Kate Middleton models on the catwalk at a student fashion show attended by Prince William on March 26, 2002, in St. Andrews, Scotland. The prince reportedly paid 200 pounds to sit in the first row and watch Middleton model a sheer dress over a black bandeau and bikini bottoms. (M Neilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Heads on a platter

    In November 2006, British retailer Woolworths showed a china plate representing Prince William and Kate Middleton as a commemorative gift for their wedding. Four years later the prediction finally came true when the royal family announced that the couple were engaged. (Woolworths via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Mario Testino / Art Partner
    Above: Slideshow (27) A royal couple’s long courtship
  2. Image: Storms And Strong Winds Batter UK Coastal Areas
    Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images
    Slideshow (51) The lives of princes
  3. Image:
    Jayne Fincher/Getty; Davidson/O'Neill/Rex via InStyle.com
    Slideshow (13) Kate Middleton’s princess style

Timeline: A history of British royal weddings

Take a look back at the gorgeous and famous British royal weddings in the last 80 years.


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