Wagering on a new pope?

Wagering on a new pope?

It’s not just the future of the Catholic Church riding on the selection of the next pope. More than 20,000 people have bet hundreds of thousands of dollars on the papal change and international bookmakers expect that dollar figure to quickly move into the millions.

Just two hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power was out with their odds and within 48 hours, they saw more than $200,000 in bets.

It’s illegal to place bets on the pope in the United States – even in Nevada — because it’s considered an election. Plenty of foreign bookmakers, however, are capitalizing on what they say could be the biggest moneymaker ever outside of sporting events.

“We are expecting this pope betting to be the biggest round of non-sporting betting in Paddy Power history — it’s a big market,” says spokesman Rory Scott. “It’s going to pick up as we head into conclave and we think it will reach about 7 million dollars.”

Paddy Power offers betting on who will be the next pope, his age, his nationality, what his papal name will be, when the conclave will start, how long it will last, and even when the first foreign visit will take place.

Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana is the favorite with odds of 11-4.

“He is screeching ahead at the moment,” Scott says. “But there is a saying, ‘He that enters the conclave as pope leaves as cardinal.’ ”

Next in line:

Archbishop Angelo Scola from Italy with odds of 3-1
Cardinal Marc Ouellet from Canada with odds of 6-1
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone from Italy with odds of 6-1
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco from Italy with odds of 8-1
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri from Argentina with odds of 12-1

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