Now that Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger has formally relinquished his papal duties as the 265th pope, all focus is now on who will emerge the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The anticipation is not only felt by believers of the faith but also by punters who aim to earn cash as the stakes go higher and higher at online betting forums.
Of the 115 cardinals expected to enter into papal conclave sometime second week of March, it is either between Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, or Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson that punters expect to emerge as the new pope, according to statistics by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.
As of 12 noon AEST, Cardinal Turkson has garnered 12.54 per cent of the bets posted at the online betting forum, while bets placed on Cardinal Scola accounted for 8.91 per cent.
"While Turkson and Scola are currently out in front, let us not forget those fabled words 'he who enters the conclave as Pope, leaves it as a Cardinal'," Rory Scott, Paddy Power spokesman, said.
Stakes are expected to go further up as the weeks progress until a new pope has been elected before Palm Sunday.
"We are expecting this pope betting to be the biggest round of non-sporting betting in Paddy Power history - it's a big market," Mr. Scott said. "It's going to pick up as we head into conclave and we think it will reach about US$7 million."
In fact, Mr. Scott pointed out, just within 48 hours after Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Feb. 11, the Irish bookmaker saw more than $200,000 in bets made at the site.
This year's bets is highly strung mainly because the resignation of His Holiness Benedict XVI was the first in a span of 600 years. But betting per se, in the Catholic Church, is highly illegal.
The last time the endeavor was made in 2005, Ireland-based PaddyPower took in $1.3 million.
Apart from Cardinal Scola and Cardinal Turkson, the other emerging cardinals completing the top five would-be pope on Paddy Power include Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.
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