A recent poll on Bookies.com shows that of 1,429 respondents, 54% would place a wager on the US elections if it were legal.
There’s a long and well-documented history of betting on presidential elections in the US. From shortly after the civil war until after World War Two, betting on elections was commonplace. And in stark contrast to what happened in 2016, favorites on betting markets have historically tended to win elections.
Today, betting on US elections is illegal in all 50 states. Despite that, bookmakers across the board continue looking for ways to offer political betting markets.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has persistently rejected any propositions on political betting. However, thanks to a 2018 US Supreme Court decision, there’s now a new discussion about overriding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and granting individual states the ability to legalize sports betting.
Since then, many states have legalized sports betting, other types of online gambling, and betting on scripted events such as the Academy Awards. Standards and legislation are developing quickly. There is strong public demand for legalizing betting on elections, but no legislation has been passed so far.
Election Betting Interest Is Growing
In reality, many Americans already bet on US elections. They just don’t do it legally. Numerous illegal offshore sportsbooks allow Americans to bet on politics, as there is no regulatory board to effectively prohibit them from doing so.
Jimmy Vaccaro, a South Point casino bookmaker, claims that election betting has always been a popular choice for gamblers. As election betting is illegal in the United States, the Las Vegas bookmaker has been creating election betting odds purely for entertainment purposes.
‘’This thing is just like a sporting event,” Vaccaro said. “What I mean is by that is, if a team is playing well, you jack money on them. That’s what you’ve seen with the election in the last two to four weeks. Both candidates have an apostle affinity to looking good or looking silly.”
Vacarro has Biden as a -130 favorite for the November election. This means that if wagers were allowed, a $130 bet would pay out $230, generating a profit of $100 for the bettor.
Vaccaro also said that some of the offshore bookmakers he follows have Trump as a -70 favorite to win the election, and therefore serve out a second term in the White House.
In the UK and Ireland, US elections odds are already available at regulated sportsbooks. American bettors living in Indiana and New Jersey can already place wagers on the Oscars, which provides a convincing argument in favor of legalizing political betting across the USA.
According to Max Bichsel, the vice president of Gambling.com Group, betting on an election candidate is no different from placing a wager on a baseball team to win the World Series.
“Whether it’s supporting your favorite team or a preferred political party, the components of politics and sports betting are effectively the same,” Bichsel said. ”The 2020 presidential election is no different. The current political landscape in the US is synonymous to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, a rivalry that drives attention and wagers.”
West Virginia Lottery Approved Election Betting but Quickly Reconsidered
Even though election betting is illegal at the federal level, on April 7, 2020, the West Virginia Lottery approved election betting markets by three different sports betting companies: FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM. The very next day, that move was dead in the water.
Gov. Jim Justice announced on April 8 that the approval for betting on US elections had been pulled. He also said he wasn’t informed that the state lottery had approved betting on the US election.
“The very second I found out about the elections betting, I disapproved of it, because we are not going to do that,” Justice said.
West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers said in a statement that it was a mistake that he didn’t inform the governor about the decision to allow FanDuel and other companies to accept bets on the presidential race.
“I thought it would be okay, but after the review, it was clearly a mistake. We just screwed up. I didn’t have the authority to do it, it should have never happened, and I apologize to everyone,” Myers said.
Mac Werner, the West Virginia Secretary of state, has made it clear that he is not an advocate of election betting. His office issued a statement highlighting that election gambling has been illegal in West Virginia since 1868 and reaffirming that it has no place in American democracy.
After this fiasco in West Virginia, it’s highly unlikely that election betting will be made possible in the US in the near future.
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Brett is the Managing Editor of this website. A former business executive turned teacher, activist, and writer, Brett also operates an anonymous Twitter account with a very large following.