LONDON Two major bookmakers are offering the shortest odds to date for Britain staying in the European Union, with the cash staked on the referendum result overwhelmingly backing a "remain" result.
William Hill and Ladbrokes cut their odds on Britain remaining in the European Union to 1/6, meaning gamblers would get only one pound ($1.45) in profit for every 6 pounds wagered if Britons vote to stay in the EU.
As polls have given sharply different pictures of public opinion, many investors are watching betting odds closely. Odds have consistently indicated a high probability of an "In" result in the June 23 referendum.
William Hill said its odds reflected an 85 percent chance of a "remain" vote, up from 83 percent on Friday. Ladbrokes, which removes the margin it takes on bets from its calculations, pointed to a 79 percent chance - up from 66 percent a month ago.
"The Brexit rally of a few weeks ago seems a distant memory. It's significant that so many people are prepared to back remain despite the short odds," Ladbrokes spokesman Alex Donohue said in a statement.
Some 90 percent of the cash staked in Ladbrokes' referendum bets have sided with Britain staying in the EU. Wiliam Hill said 80 percent of the money gambled was for "remain", although most of the individual bets backed a Brexit.
"During the week just gone, the odds for 'remain' have halved from 1/3 to 1/6 as many political punters seem to have decided they know what the result will be," William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said.
William Hill lengthened its odds for Brexit to 7/2 from 10/3, indicating a 22 percent chance of Britons voting in favour of a withdrawal from the EU.
A persistent divergence between telephone polls, which suggest the "In" campaign is ahead by a wide margin, and online polls, which suggest a tight race that "Out" could win, has flummoxed pollsters in the run-up to the referendum.
Earlier on Saturday, finance leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers united over the weekend in wishing that Britain stays in the EU, but acknowledged they could do little more than hope.
($1 = 0.6894 pounds)
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Alexander Smith)
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Updated Date: May 21, 2016 19:45 PM