LONDON -- Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, will soon give birth to a baby girl named Alexandra who will one day study at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and whose first boyfriend will be named Robert.
Or at least that's what the crystal-ball gazing British public are telling bookmakers here, who are relishing the frenzy of betting related to the royal baby, the heir to the heir to the heir of the British throne.
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Britons can -- and do -- bet on anything, with some 9,000-plus betting parlors dotted around the country. And with the birth of Britain's most anticipated baby since Prince William expected this month -- or July 17, odds-on favorite -- wager-happy Britons are queuing up to try and make a royal buck.
"There's a royal bump of excitement across the country," said Rory Scott, a spokesman for Paddy Power, a bookmaker. "Betting and the royal family are two of our favorite pastimes in the U.K., along with talking about the miserable weather, and people are really into it," he said.
Bookies here are taking bets on everything from the baby's weight to its hair color to whether Kate will be "too posh to push."
Bookmakers say that around $1.5 million has already been wagered and that the biggest flurry of bets will flood in once Buckingham Palace announces that Kate has gone in to labor.
"We expect it will go through the roof then," said James Dirs, a spokesman at bookmaker Coral.
The big money is on the baby's name, with Alexandra, the queen's middle name, and Charlotte, Pippa Middleton's middle name and the name of King George III's wife, leading the pack. Other favorites include Victoria, Elizabeth and Diana.
"The name is a massive talking point, and there's a long list, all with attractive odds. It's like the Grand National," said Ladbrokes' spokesman Alex Donohue, referring to Britain's most famous horse race and the granddaddy of all betting events here. Ladbrokes started taking bets on the royal baby the day William and Kate got hitched and have so far handled about $150,000, or double the amount they took on the royal wedding.
The betting public is convinced the baby is a girl. Palace officials have said that the couple themselves don't know the gender, but the thinking here is: Yeah, right. Punters like to point to an incident in March when Kate accepted a teddy bear from a well-wisher and reportedly said "thank you -- I will take that for my d ...," the wide assumption being she stopped short of saying daughter. Paddy Power was so certain she meant daughter -- and not, say, "dog" -- that it paid out winnings of about $10,000 to the 700 people who had already bet on girl. If it is a boy, gamblers are backing the names George and James.
Reflecting the global fascination with the baby, William Hill, Britain's largest bookmaker, said that it has taken around $150,000 in bets from people in 103 countries -- although not from the United States, where betting on such events is illegal.
Tony Kenny, a spokesman, said that many of the Britons who are betting are placing small sums on their own name or friends' names and "giving it as a little present, or using it as a joke to share down at the pub." He added that this helped to explain bets placed on non-regal names like Madonna and Waynetta.
While betting is largely done online, Kenny said about 500 people a day are walking in to their shops and dropping a pound or two to fill out a "royal baby" form with six questions including "Will William be holding the baby when they first emerge from the hospital?" (Most people check yes). Bookies also encourage people to dream up their own bets, even long-term ones like the name of the baby's first boyfriend (Robert, 33-1 odds) or girlfriend (Camilla, 50-1).
And one need not wander into a parlor to catch some of the betting buzz: it's enough just to tootle around London. To publicize its offerings, Paddy Power this week sent four plump men dressed as giant babies wearing only diapers and crowns on the subway en route to Buckingham Palace.
Like the thousands of people who have placed a wager, Scott Moorhead, a 34-year-old Londoner who works in advertising, is eagerly awaiting the official announcement of the baby. By tradition, the announcement will be placed on an easel outside of the gates of Buckingham Palace.
He recently bet $60 on Victoria -- "a royal name of good pedigree," he said -- and is considering placing another on the baby's hair being red (9-to-4), like its Uncle Harry.
Betting on current events like the royal baby "makes reading the news a little more interesting," he said.