Betting on the New Pope to Reach Millions of Dollars

Who will become the next pope? Thousands place their bets.

Feb. 28, 2013— -- While the U.S. has deemed it illegal to place bets on who will become the next pope -- the selection process is considered an election -- plenty of people around the world (even in the U.S., in the form of "unofficial" pools) have put down cash on who they think will become the next leader of the Catholic Church.

As New Jersey's Asbury Park Press reports, more than 20,000 people have bet several hundred thousand dollars on the change, with bookmakers estimating that number to "quickly move into the millions." That could be a record for a non-sporting event.

PaddyPower spokesman Rory Scott says he expects betting to reach "about $7 million" as the College of Cardinals convene to make their selection. Last time a new pope was selected, PaddyPower, which is based in Ireland, took in $1.3 million.

As we reported shortly after the pope announced his plans to step down, online betting forums like and have Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana as the clear front-runner.