George Hamilton’s decision to quit I’m Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is a crying shame for the show, but also highlights the precarious nature of betting on reality television shows for punters and bookmakers alike.
Hamilton followed in the footsteps of Katie Price and Camilla Dallerup by uttering the famous words that serve as the title of the ITV show and then walking away from the jungle after two weeks of sleeping rough in the Australian outback.
The 70-year-old’s departure is a shame for the programme as, in the words of fellow contestant and the recently eliminated Joe Bugner, “he’s the only interesting person left on the show”. Worse, still, anyone who had money on the American actor, who had become second favourite to win after keeping fellow campmates and viewers amused with his Hollywood tales and funny one-liners, has seen their investment go up in woodsmoke.
Betting on these fickle celebrities is a dangerous game as at any given moment they can throw a hissyfit, throw their toys out of the pram and stomp off in a huff.
But, like the fame-searching contestants, the punters can have their day in the sun, too. Katie Price’s decision to quit a week earlier cleaned out the bookmakers, with William Hill having priced up Katie at 7/1 to fall on her sword at the outset.
Like Hamilton, Price had also been second favourite to win outright but was backed in from 7/1 to Evens to walk out of the jungle of her own accord after being nominated by the British public to take part in the dreaded Bushtucker Trials for the seventh day running.
After gamely agreeing to endure such daily horrors as eating fried flies, chewing on kangaroo testicles and being covered in green slime to win food for her fellow contestants, the buxom beauty finally decided she had had enough and, after refusing to take part in ‘Bad Pit’ – a trial which would have seen her lowered into a snakepit, Price cut her losses. William Hll, meanwhile, had to count theirs. “Our early estimates are that this has cost us a five figure sum,” said Hills spokesman Rupert Adams. “We are absolutely gutted.”
Bookmakers welcome these Reality TV shows as a means to offer added value and depth to their portfolio, even though they tend not to attract big takings. “The money placed on novelty betting is small beer compared to what we take on sport,” says Charlie McCann of online bookmaker Stan James, which has been offering a whole raft of betting propositions on I’m A Celebrity – from whether anyone will pass out from a lack of food to the superbly-entitled ‘Let’s Get Ready to Fumble’ (will two contestants get it on in the outback).
“But now that we’re entering the winter months and are still in the grip of recession, people are staying in more, ordering a Chinese and watching shows like I’m A Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor. Then they think they might as well have a cheeky bet.”
For those of you thinking of chancing your arm, I’m A Celebrity has been won by male contestants in six of the eight editions to date. “Normally, it’s quite easy to predict a winner,” claims novelty odds expert Jonathan Raab of Blue Square. “Previous winners have generally been affable, personable characters the public can relate to, and having met Jimmy White several times I’d make him a shoo-in to win. He’s got no ego and has a very wide appeal.”
The current favourite to win the show is Italian celebrity chef, Gino D’Acampo, who is as short as 4/11 with most bookmakers. White, meanwhile, having cried his eyes out when Hamilton exited stage left, can be backed at 8/1 with Paddy Power and SkyBet. There are probably already odds on whether he blubs if he wins – but I wouldn’t bet on it…
Click here for I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here odds.