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Irish bookies crown Obama the winner

Dublin (Ireland)Barack ObamaRepublic of IrelandCompanies and CorporationsSarah PalinU.S. Presidential Election (2008)

Ireland's major betting company Paddy Power is so sure that Barack Obama will win the U.S. presidential election next month that it paid out more than 1 million euros ($1.35 million) on pro-Obama bets Thursday.

"We declare this race well and truly over and congratulate all those who backed Obama -- your winnings await you," said a company spokesman, who is also named Paddy Power.

The company explained it was paying out early to reward its customers and acknowledge the inevitable. Power, the spokesman, said the company had been taking "one-way traffic for Obama since the start of the summer."

The biggest winner: Someone who gambled 100,000 euros ($135,000) and collected 150,000 euros ($202,000). The most visionary: A 50 euros ($67) bet placed in 2005 that, because Obama was rated a 50-to-1 no-hoper at the time, paid out 2,550 euros ($3,417).

Nonetheless, the Dublin-based company is still taking new bets on the winner -- and a John McCain upset on Nov. 4 on a bet placed today would collect 6 euros for every euro wagered. By contrast, a winning euro (dollar) bet on Obama would net just 1.11 euros ($1.11).

The company's range of other U.S. presidential bets include whether McCain will drop Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate (a 10-to-1 long-shot), and whether Obama might dump his running mate Joe Biden in favor of Hillary Clinton (an even more distant 66-to-1 chance). There are also odds on whether each of the 50 U.S. states and District of Columbia will go Republican red or Democratic blue.

Paddy Power PLC has a long record of attracting media attention by paying out early, particularly on political contests -- and also a recent record of getting the result spectacularly wrong.

In June, the company paid out early in favor of people who had bet that Ireland would approve the EU's latest treaty in a referendum. The next day, a surprise "no" result sent shock waves throughout the 27-nation bloc, and cost the Powers that be a hefty sum.

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