Novelty and special bets are more popular than ever before and for big events such as a government election the amount wagered in the UK can easily hit the tens to hundreds of millions annually. Novelty bets apply to both sports and non-sports markets and effectively cover any betting line that doesn’t fall into the standard sports market categories.
Novelty bets can be placed on politics, TV shows, awards ceremonies such as the Oscars, weather, the next pope, next hosts of the Olympics, you name it if you can predict an outcome on something there is a bookie out there to give you a price on it. Many betting sites will also provide odds on special markets if you get in touch with them.
When it comes to specials bookmakers are by no means equal, some are certainly better than others in terms of depth of market and value. In fact, this is an area where prices can vary by 100% or more between bookies so looking around for the best sites and oddss is genuinely worthwhile. In this guide we show you the best bookies for specials betting, the types of bets you can place, how to find live betting and how to get the best prices.
Best Online Bookmakers for Novelty & Specials Betting
Every betting site listed on this site provides at least some markets for these types of bets. Many however only cover the very biggest events. If you place these types of wager regularly then try out one of our recommended bookmakers.
Good Mix of Politics and TV
While not really hammering the novelty bet category, BetGoodwin have a healthy scattering of all sorts of specials and novelty bets. So for anyone who doesn’t need huge depth of market in this area but does want to be able to bet on the bigger ‘current affairs’ markets across the board, they are a good choice.
You can expect markets on TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing, big political events like UK general elections and the next US Prime Minister, and odds on the winners of big awards ceremonies like the Oscars.
Best for TV show offers
Betfred do not have the most expansive special markets around but they are our top bookmaker for TV specials. Every top TV show in Britain is covered by the bookie from X Factor, the Voice, Celebrity big brother, etc, etc., and not just outright result prices Betfred provide many lines to bet on right throughout the running of the show.
In general prices are very good with Betfred but the real value comes from the reliable and regular offers they push for the UK’s biggest TV shows. Generally, the bookie run offers such as money back second on outright bets. For example, bet on the winner of I’m a celebrity get me out of here before the show airs and if that contestant comes second get your stake refunded. Other offers are available throughout the running of the shows too.
Non-Sports Champion Bookie
Coral have a dedicated non-sports section that contain most of the bookmakers novelty bets. Have a look though the sports sections as well though as each sport is likely to have special markets. The non-sports area shows betting highlights with write ups on each event they cover. Depth of market is good and the prices available are some of the best I’ve seen.
We know Coral are one of the best betting sites for rewarding loyal customers and if you do a lot of novelty betting then you can expect the bookie to push special deals your way.
Based in the UK but with a far more European outlook you will find more non-UK markets with Unibet than any other bookie we list. At the time of writing the bookie are providing lines on over 10 TV shows, 5 awards ceremonies, several elections and about another 15 other markets to do with movies, current affairs, sport and more. UK specials are also fully covered.
Fine you are not going to get the type of funny betting lines that you will find with the likes of Paddy Power but that being said if you take your novelty betting seriously this is your bookie. Prices are very competitive and available well in advance. Unibet are also one of the best around for virtual, eSports and less well know sports so if you want a lot of choice in addition to all of the standard markets go no further.
Huge Depth of Market
The giant of British bookmaking has a vast depth of market when it comes to specials and great prices to go with it. Not only do Hill’s provide outright markets on every standard market you can imagine they also provide many other lines to go with it. You are not going to get a load of offers and features but if its depth of market you are after then this has to be one of your novelty betting sites. For example if you are betting on the Oscars you can wager on every single awards category and that is not very common with other bookmakers.
Top For Sports-Specials
Ladbrokes are a colossus of UK bookmaking and as you would expect cover virtually every top event going with good prices available in advance. I wouldn’t say they are stand out on any specific special lines, they just have a lot of them. The sheer market coverage of this brand means you will find many unique lines and good odds to go with it.
If anything Ladbrokes are better for sports-specials than non-sports. Certainly worth having an account with if you like to wager on more obscure lines or on senarios that are not priced up with other bookmakers.
What Are Novelty & Special Bets?
Novelty betting is a very modern phenomenon, the rapid rise in popularity has been driven by the age of online betting that now gives us access to more betting markets than ever before.
In the last century novelty bets were placed on an individual basis with punters approaching bookmakers to give them odds on the occurrence of a specific event. This was highly noncompetitive and the prices given were generally very poor value.
It is believed that these bets can be traced back to a wager placed in 1989 by a man from south Wales who stuck £30 on five events occurring before the turn of the millennium. These were Cliff Richard to receive a knighthood, EastEnders to still be on air, Australian shows Home and Away and Neighbours to still be broadcast on UK television and U2 to still be together. He only went and won nearly £200,000!
A huge amount has changed since then and now you can find novelty bets with almost every bookie in the world. Some markets attract millions of pounds in wagers. For example, when the character Lucy Beale was killed off on the UK soap EastEnders (sorry, spoilers) punters reportedly bet more on this than any other novelty bet in British history.
Novelty bets tend to be seen as a fun type of bet and less serious than sports betting, and for this reason is often shunned by professional gamblers remaining the pursuit of the average bettor. Naturally some operators lend themselves more to these bet types than others. As a rule the more seriously a bookie takes itself the poorer the specials markets they provide. For example Paddy Power and Coral are excellent whereas BetVictor leave a lot to be desired in this area.
There is too much money in this rising market for betting sites to completely ignore and this is why you can get prices on the biggest events, such as the UK general election, from all bookies.
Novelty bets are sometimes termed proposition bets (proposing an event will or won’t happen), special bets, alternative bets or non-sports bets (although you can have novelty bets on sports).
Bookies don’t trust novelty markets as much as sports markets because this pushes most odds traders (the people who set prices) out of their comfort zones. It is thought that many special markets are more open to inside information than sports markets. This is partly to do with the fact that professional sports have a code of conduct that contestants on a TV show for example do not. Some entertainment markets have also had their fair share of corruption such as the ITV phone vote scandal.
This lower trust level has two main effects. Firstly bookies tend to air on the side of caution when setting prices and so if you can find the market with several operators it is worth shopping around. Secondly payout limits tend to be some of the lowest on these lines and in some instances can be capped as low as £1000. See our payout comparison in the payments section for our bookmakers limits. It is certainly worth checking in advance especially as many novelty lines have high odds (e.g 100/1) and just a £50 bet could hit those limits.
How to Place Novelty & Specials Bets
Novelty and specials bets are no different to most other sports bets, all you are doing is predicting an outcome or an event to happen and this means most single and multiple bet types can be applied.
The main restriction on betting is not the inability to place bet types but the fact that the lines provided are more limited than for most major sports markets. Here we cover the most common bets available for alternative bets as well as how to get the best value out of them. For more infomation about different wagers see our bet types section.
Outright Result Betting
I would say over 90% of novelty bets are outright bets on the outcome of an event before it starts. This bet type will be covered by virtually every bookmaker and so this is a highly competitive market. As we know the more competition the better the value for the punter.
For something like the result of a UK or US election or the winner of an Oscar you will be able to shop around and find the best price. Remember to look for offers, most novelty promotions are aimed at outright betting lines. If your betting on the outcome of a TV show for example make sure you visit Betfred in particular who are famous for money back deals.
Win, Place and Each Way Betting
Win and place betting is highly applicable to specials betting. Many TV competitions for example are knock out format. Think of Bake Off, Love Island or Big Brother, and this means many bookies will give a number of places on outright winners.
The each way price is relative to the win price and so these bets also offer decent value. Remember to check the number of places given and the odds of a place when looking for the best bets.
Novelty and Special Sports Bets
Most alternative sports bets that don’t fall into traditional categories and can vary hugely. Some common examples include betting on sports related awards such as BBC sports personality, the winner of the Ballon d’Or, etc. Depending on the bookie you will also find various other sports related markets. For example, for a while Paddy Power had an obsession with David Beckham and were offering odds on everything from the name of his first grand child to the next person to sponsor him.
Other sports specials include things like who will host the next major tournaments, who will be the next club to move to a new stadium, who will win the WWE royal rumble, etc.
Be careful with these wagers if they are not widely offered then the value can often be quite low.
Most betting on television shows is based around knockout competitions such as cooking shows, I’m A Celebrity etc., but it is also common to bet on events to happen in other shows, such as a character to be killed off in a soap opera. Whilst most lines focus around the outright winner there are an almost infinite number of possible markets, from the gender of the winner, winning coach or judge, highest points, lowest points, next eviction, you name it. It is also common to bet on things like who will be the next host of popular chat shows or how long a anchor will last in the role.
Again be careful with the odds offered for some of the more convoluted lines. For example when betting on the winning gender you should expect odds close to evens but these can be as low as 4/6 each, showing you how much edge is built into some of these lines. Many markets will also close in advance for pre-recorded TV shows as there is a risk the identity of the winner could leak out so make sure you get your wagers on in time.
Betting on politics is only second to TV show betting. Depending on the betting site you can bet on the outcome of every major election in the world. If your looking for a worldwide focus check out a bookie like Betway that have a more international focus. Many UK bookies will give lines on the US and UK elections but not much more. Paddy Power of course give expansive markets on Irish elections too.
Most markets are for the outright winners with ante-post prices but closer to the event you bet on all sorts of things, such as: number of seats won, number of female ministers (or cabinet ministers), next party leader, individual constituency betting, date of next election, overall majority, referendums, first minister to resign, number of votes a candidate will win by, percentage turnout at an election, and so on. These markets can swell to a huge size just before an election and are popular when live betting.
Punt on anything from the winner of the Eurovision song contest to the Grammys album, song or record of the year. Bet on who will headline at Glastonbury or Reading, what the next world cup theme song will be, the singer of the next James Bond song, NME awards and more.
Often bookies (especially Paddy Power) will have specials that focus around a single group or artist. For example One Direction specials seem to be very popular with lines on the names of the band members future children and even if they will have other band members as god parents.
Hollywood and Film Specials
One of the best value novelty markets around are those on major film awards such as the BAFTAS or Oscars. Most bookies cover these and so these lines are generally competitive. Not all bookies will cover these in the same depth however so if you want to bet on ‘best make up artist’ for example you may need to shop around.
In recent times you can even by on the Razzies allowing you to wager on more fun lines such as worst actor/film/actress, etc. Markets can be found on who will play a certain character in a certain film, who the next James Bond will be and much more.
This is the category where you can bet on things like who will be the next pope or archbishop, next Nobel peace prize winner, when Julian Assange will escape from the Ecuadorian embassy, etc.
Current affairs is the most popular category for punters proposing their own bets to betting sites. If you want to wager on an event and you can’t see the market anywhere else then contact the bookmaker and ask them for odds. This is actually how many bookies get their ideas for markets to publish to other customers. Don’t expect amazing value on these bets though.
Very popular in the UK especially where we are all obsessed with the weather. This line tends to see its highest popularity around Christmas with typical markets on whether it will snow on Christmas Day or New Years Eve. It is also a popular market during the height of summer, such as ‘will the UK temperature record be broken’.
Depending on the time of year there are either loads of these bet types or none at all. For example it is possible to stake on things like the cost of damage caused by a hurricane.
Lottery betting has more lines than you might first imagine. Bet on the colour of the first or last ball, the lowest or highest drawn number, the bonus ball number, whether it will be a rollover or number of rollovers in a row, first/last/bonus ball to be odd or even, etc.
Many of these lines have two outcomes and so you can easily see from the odds price how much value you are getting. My guess would be not a huge amount.
Other Novelty Bets
How long is a piece of string.
I promise you if you propose a wager there is a bookie out there that either has a market for it or will at least give you odds personally. Other markets to bet on include the winners of pageants such as Miss World or Miss Universe, royal specials with lines on who will be the next monarch, royal baby specials and more. I have even seen markets on who will have the most twitter followers by the end of the year
Accumulator and Full Cover Novelty Bets
There is no reason why you can’t place multiple bets on novelty lines, especially if these are outright singles. It should be possible for you to combine an alternative market with any other bet. If you want to bet on the winner of X-factor and Liverpool to beat Arsenal in a double then go for it. On the same token it should be no problem to place a full cover bet such as a lucky 15 or a Yankee with these selections.
Be careful of one thing if doing accumulator bets like this. Payout limits are often capped on the event in your multiple with the lowest payout cap.
Handicap, Conditional, Spread and Forecast betting
I have seen some of these lines available on politics in the run up to the election such as spread betting on the number of seats won, conditional betting on a series of outcomes and forecasting the order of winners. In general though should you wish to place these bet contact a bookie like William Hill and see if they will give you a market.
Live In Play Betting
Live betting on novelty events can be very hit and miss. If your betting on a big event such as the UK general election then many bookies will run live betting from when the polling stations close until the result in announced. This is also common around popular awards shows such as the BBC sports personality or the Ballon d’Or and live competitions such as the Eurovision song contest.
TV shows generally do not have in play betting as most shows are pre-recorded and this means the winner is already known by some people when the shows are broadcast and so markets can actually even close days or weeks in advance of the show.
News, Results and Statistics
Some bookmakers devote entire sections of their websites to news and opinion features to do with Novelty betting. If your looking some news, stats or gossip then check out Paddy Power and Coral in particular. In general though don’t expect much beyond odds prices for these markets.
Then again this is an example of a market where you won’t struggle to find news online from other sources. If you are backing an election or a TV show result then there is probably more content online than you could ever want to help you study your bets.
Live Streaming and Commentary
The nature of novelty bets tends to mean there is nothing to live stream as such. For example, if you are wagering on an ITV television show then the bookmakers can’t stream the programme directly. Then again most things that you can bet on in this area tends to be broadcast on free to air TV anyway so there is little call for streaming.
Some bookies that provide live betting will have some sort of graphic that will allow you to keep track of the action but then if your betting on Eurovision for example you may as well just watch it.
Novelty Betting Controversies
Bookmakers are a little weary of many TV shows in particular due to irregularities in the past that has tarnished their regulation a little. This is one reason why prices and payouts are generally poor for novelty betting markets.
Back in 2005 ITV in particular were exposed as having irregularities in telephone voting on the British Comedy Awards and later for Dancing on Ice where a technical problem lead to over 11,500 votes not being counted.
More recently in 2015 the winner of Britain’s Got Talent was contested as the winner was found to have used a stunt-dog, leading to many bets being voided. Bookies only ever need the slightest sniff of foul play to cancel a market.
Odds and Payouts
As I’ve highlighted on a few occasions in this guide odds prices for novelty bets can be very hit an miss.
If betting on the outright winner you should usually be in a competitive market and so prices should be reasonable with no more than a 10% edge built into the book.
Poor value is more associated with more bizarre lines such as will alien life be discovered.
This is firstly not a competitive market and secondly very hard to quantify.
For example Paddy Power give odds of 100/1 of this happening but in reality the odds would probably be closer to 100,000,000/1.
If the bet looks to good to be true it probably is.
Large prices are often available for many alternative bet type with many selections showing prices of 100/1 or more. This means you only need to place a few quid on the market and you are already into the £1000’s if you win. Please don’t end up in the position of making a fantastic prediction only for your winnings to be capped by low limits.
Special bets are no more open to fixing than any other betting markets, in fact, many being national or international live broadcast events make them less likely to be prone to corruption. The issue for bookies is the greater unknowns, most of the factors that influence these bets are based on human opinion and that is the hardest thing of all to predict. This is why many markets are under-priced and limited in payouts.
I wouldn’t expect to find payout limits in excess of £25k from any operator though. As an example here are two payout limits for two bookies at opposite ends of the spectrum. Vernons is actually closed now but serve as a good example nonetheless.
- Politics – £5000
- Special and Non-Sports events – £5000
- Politics, UK General Election and US Presidential Elections – £250,000
- Politics, Other – £100,000
- All other non sports events, unless exceptions apply – £10,000