updated 10/17/2008 9:12:04 AM ET 2008-10-17T13:12:04

The race is over as far as Ireland's biggest bookmaker is concerned.

Paddy Power PLC says it is so sure Barack Obama will win the U.S. presidential election next month that it paid off Thursday on all bets it had taken backing the Democratic candidate. It said it shelled out more than 1 million euros, about $1.35 million.

"We declare this race well and truly over and congratulate all those who backed Obama — your winnings await you," the company said in a statement.

Paddy Power has a long tradition of winning free publicity by paying off early, particularly on political contests — and it also has a recent record of getting the result spectacularly wrong.

In June, the company paid out early in favor of people who bet Irish voters would approve the European Union's latest treaty in a referendum. The next day, a "no" result sent shock waves across the 27-nation EU, and cost Powers a hefty sum since it ended up paying off both sides of the bet.

Wrong guess again?
The same thing would happen to Powers if it guessed wrong about the U.S. election. The pro-Obama bettors would keep the winnings paid out Thursday, while John McCain backers would cash in, too.

Powers said the biggest winner among the Obama bettors was someone who gambled 100,000 euros and got back a total of 150,000 euros.

The most visionary bettor, though, was the "punter" who put down 50 euros on Obama in 2005. At the time, Obama was listed at 50-to-1, so the bettor got 2,550 euros.

Despite calling the contest, the Dublin-based bookmaker said it is still taking new bets on the race. A John McCain victory Nov. 4 on a bet placed Thursday would pay off 5  euros for every 1 euro bet. By contrast, each 1 euro bet on Obama would net just 11 euro cents.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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