How U.K. Bookies Set The Gambling Odds On The Next James Bond

Over the past few days, the Internet has been inundated with the news that Damian Lewis will most likely follow Daniel Craig into 007’s Saville Row suit.

Bizarrely, this news didn’t come from Sony, Eon Productions, or Barbara Broccoli. It came from William Hill, one of the largest bookmakers in Britain, which dropped the odds from 25/1 to 3/1, and then further (as of this article) to 6/4. In layman’s terms, that means the Lewis is being given a whopping 40 percent chance of becoming the first redheaded Bond.

Former frontrunner Idris Elba currently stands a distanced second at 28 percent.

But how can they possibly know enough about the inner workings of one of the world’s most beloved franchises to actually assign odds and take bets?

It’s just four guys in a room, talking it out

“The reality is, it's extremely hard,” says William Hill’s Rupert Adams in an accent so splendidly English you wonder if he’s on the 007 shortlist. “The way we create the next Bond [betting] book is four of us sit down together and put down a list of people we think might potentially be or might have a chance of being the next Bond. We sit down and we try and work out what we personally think, and we do it by percentages, so you say, ‘Well, I think that's a 5 percent chance that it will be Damian Lewis. It's a 5 percent chance it will be Idris Elba. It's a 6 percent chance it's going to be whomever.’"

The rationale here is pretty much thinking like the public and making an educated guess on the odds, which are not always right initially, as William Hill found with Lewis.

“Well, we said he's approximately at the top end of the age group they'll probably go for, he's ginger, so that's negative." says William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.

“Well, we said he's approximately at the top end of the age group they'll probably go for, he's ginger, so that's negative,” says Adams. “He's a good actor but he's not particularly butch, he's not particularly strong, and that seems to be the way they're going. He's not necessarily a heartthrob, so we felt there was not a great chance. In effect, that's why he started as a 25 to 1 shot (3.9% chance), whereas Idris was in effect about a 35 to 40% chance of being the chosen one.”

The initial odds aren’t that important

If you’re new to the whole bookmaking game, you might not realize that the initial odds aren’t that critical, especially this far out. it’s the market that makes the odds in the end, so an educated guess is enough.

“We put together what we think is an educated guess and literally it’s just, ‘Guys, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree?’ It's the same with every market you put out, be it a James Bond market or be it who's going to win the X-Factor or Dancing with Stars—it doesn't matter. This is our view. Disagree with us, then put your money where your mouth is.”

"It's the same with every market you put out, be it a James Bond market or be it who's going to win the X-Factor or Dancing with Stars. It doesn't matter."

Surprisingly, no one in the group has any specialized training—just common sense and a keen knowledge of culture.

“Each and every one of us has an interest in Bond and each and every one of us does generally a decent amount of research in advance. We all have our own contacts, whether it be through Twitter or Trends or whatever.”

The public makes the odds in the end, and they're usually right

Sometimes someone does have an inside angle, but an extensive network of spies isn’t required for setting a book, though it does help.

“I happen to know one of the Fleming family and I always say, ‘Who do you think it's going to be?’ so we all use every asset at our disposal in effect,” says Adams. “But the simply reality is that the market makes the decision.

Weirdly, there’s actually a strong correlation to betting behavior and what actually happens—even though there’s no actual causality.

“The vast majority of times when we have seen a gamble such as this, whether it be on the Royal Baby name or the next manager of Mass United or whatever it may be, invariably they're correct,” says Adams. “My belief is that certainly Damian is being discussed. He's probably on a short list, at the very least, and personally I'd be very surprised if Daniel Craig does another Bond. I'd be absolutely astounded if that's not the case.”

If you’re wondering whether the producers gauge the public’s reaction and decide by popular vote, they probably don’t—and it's probably too late anyway, according to Adams.

"The vast majority of times when we have seen a gamble such as this...invariably they're correct,” says Adams.

“I think actually he's already on the list and what happens in the betting, or whatever, probably doesn't affect it. Potentially Mrs. Broccoli could sit there and say ‘Sure, everyone knows who it's going to be, or knows he's on the short list, let's just get rid of him and then think of someone else.’ It could be as negative as well.”

Despite the current odds, Adams thinks Lewis shouldn’t be the chosen one.

“The chap who's Superman, Henry Cavill. I think he'd be absolutely bloody brilliant,” says Adams, who favors Roger Moore among the Pantheon. “In my view, I think Mr. Cavill would do a very fine job. I think he's right on everything and I hope he gets the job rather than someone else.”

Ethan Wolff-Mann is Supercompressor's deputy editor. He thinks Pierce Brosnan was underrated as a Bond. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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