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July 31, 2014

Bookies over Pollsters

Harry M. Covert

The thing about polls, the political kind, is simply they allow political connoisseurs to become “experts” and, quite obviously, legends in their own minds.


Mostly professional predictions are guess work at best, but they do make for fun conversations.


Instead of driving ourselves mad by wishful thinking and hoping, the best predictions come from talking to the bookies. Campaigns spend quite a lot of donor money on pollsters to cover aspirations.


Take a gander at the wizards in the gambling meccas. What do we see? Usually the best pickers and choosers. If you want wise choices on “hoss” racing and the “ponies,” baseball, football or hockey championships, and the collegiate competitions, local bookies are best.


They are as virtuous as the national lines out of Nevada and probably from Maryland Live, the “educational institution” at Arundel Mills, Hanover.


As of today, the state is bragging that some $11 million have been paid out in winning since the casino opened. They also report there are lots of jobs available, such as senior vice president for marketing, poker supervisor (no card sharks need inquire), dealers of all sorts and especially food purveyors like chefs of all categories, and servers.


It is a wonderful thing that the Free State’s public schools and other coffers are growing with the green, although I haven’t seen the matriculation of money in Frederick. I feel certain a good report of the good gambling will surface soon.


There is no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the “one-armed bandits” make for interesting plays. Always have. First time I ever visited Maryland was many years ago en route to the Laurel horse races. Once inside the state line the first stopover was a hotel with a number of slot machines.


This was not Bobby Baker’s Carousel. Baker, old-timers might recall, was often considered a senatorial bagman. Just gossip, of course. He was an aide to the Senate majority leader at the time, the Texas senator. Okay, the latter was L. B. Johnson.


Companions that day were a race-horse owner, whose entry was scheduled to run at Laurel. The other was a restaurant owner, both horse devotees from Virginia.


Being a big spender, I put a nickel in the slot machine. Bada bing, $20 dollars in coin came my way. That was all of the winning I had. Later in the day at the raceway, the Virginia horse came in first. How exciting. Moments after the elation, the horse was disqualified. The jockey was seen “cropping” his challenger.


At the window, a tout suggested not to bet on the horse. I ignored him and placed $2.


From that day to this, I listen to the bookies, even if I don’t place any real money on races, sporting or political.


Now the purpose of this conversation? Those in the know are quietly predicting and giving odds (to their benefit, of course) that in November the current lieutenant governor will become Maryland’s governor; that sitting governor has no chance in a Democratic presidential bid; that the current Frederick County sheriff, Board of Commissioners president and his colleagues will receive overwhelming votes.


The above is the latest from odds-makers. So, in the public interest, and since education is the most important thing, the recommendation is this: keep your wagers in Maryland and no more visits to Charles Town.


It’s too early, some say, to set odds for Maryland Terrapins’ football chances in the Big Ten. The Ravens probabilities for either jail visits or NFL opportunities are 50-1. The Orioles are 15-1 to win the World Series (Washington Nationals are 10-1). Leftover Redskins fans, odds are 55-1 to reach the Super Bowl.


Pollsters versus the friendly local odds-makers? It’s the latter, of course.


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