CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian bookmaker on Thursday began paying out bets on a conservative opposition victory, declaring the country's September 7 election race already over for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's struggling Labor government.
With nine days to go, online bookmaker Sportsbet said it had begun paying A$1.5 million ($1.34 million) in bets received on a victory for opposition leader Tony Abbott's center-right coalition, because the outcome was already clear.
"As far as Sportsbet's betting markets are concerned, the Abbotts can start packing up their belongings ahead of their imminent move to Kirribilli House," Sportsbet spokesman Haydn Lane said, referring to the prime minister's residence in Sydney.
Abbott's conservatives are expected to sweep aside Labor's minority government, with recent opinion polls giving them a 53 percent to 47 percent lead, enough to command a sizeable majority in parliament's lower house.
Sportsbet said its calculations put the conservatives ahead in 90 seats in the 150-seat lower house, well up on the 72 seats they now hold, with Labor leading in 56. Another two seats were expected to go to independents, Lane said, with two others too close to call.
($1 = 1.1181 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Ron Popeski)