- Political Odds can’t be bet on at any sports book based in the United States.
- Bookmakers believe election betting could generate 10 to 15 times more money wagered than the Super Bowl.
- Political Betting in West Virginia went live for one hour then the odds were taken down.
LAS VEGAS — The coronavirus pandemic has forced sportsbooks globally to shift the way they operate as some of the biggest sporting events and league postponements have caused a lapse in revenue for betting operators. As bettors try to find alternate sports and events to bet on, sportsbooks have done a good job of providing users with more odds for events such as the NFL Draft and eSports leagues.
The next major revenue-generating event for sportsbooks could be the 2020 United States Presidential Election. Political Betting has grown in popularity over the years and Westgate executive Jay Kornegay who is the vice president of race and sports thinks it could easily surpass the Super Bowl handle at sportsbooks.
“Just talking to others who have booked the election, they’ve been saying for years that the presidential election handle would dwarf the Super Bowl,” said Kornegay. “That’s been widely discussed, in the United Kingdom and at offshores. And when I saw dwarfs, I’ve heard 10 to 15 times the Super Bowl numbers. More people have political opinions than sports opinions. You’re reaching a bigger demographic.”
According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, $154.7 million was bet on Super Bowl LV in February, just shy of the Super Bowl LIV state-record handle of $158.6 million. Political Betting being able to top that number can help bookies make up for the shortfall in sports bets because of the coronavirus this year.
US Political Betting Overseas
In the betting markets overseas especially in England, political betting is popular and US elections are among the most commonly wagered on political props. London-based Smarkets is one of the biggest online betting exchanges in the country. Sarbjit Bakhshi is the head of Smarkets political markets and he sees the potential for regulated political betting in the United States.
“I think the potential for legal political betting in the USA is huge,” said Bakhshi. “Given the extraordinary nature of politics in recent years — Brexit, Trump, coronavirus — we’ve seen a huge uplift in people visiting our site to bet and trade on politics, and I think there will be a real appetite for it when it eventually begins to open up in the States. The US presidential election is always a big event over here, and with a personality like Trump involved, we are fully expecting new records for volume on our site.”
Global sports betting giant, William Hill, is also no stranger to offering election odds.
“It’s something we offer in other parts of the world and it’s very popular,” said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US. “I have made bets on the presidential election in the past, and made a recent bet on Joe Biden when I was in London a couple of months ago.”
With sportsbooks and sports betting exchanges overseas seeing a boom in bets on the US Presidential Election, it becomes clear why U.S. sports gambling operators might be interested in offering those odds as well.
Political Betting in the USA
In the United States, state-regulated sportsbooks have not introduced political betting lines. States have to write the legislation and regulations to bet on politics and no state has done so yet.
U.S. online sportsbooks have shown interest in offering political wagers. In West Virginia, DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM all pitched the West Virginia Lottery to allow them to offer political betting odds in order to compete with offshore sportsbooks.
Those political odds were initially approved by regulators in West Virginia but that betting market was quickly taken down.
“It got put up as a market that is legal in West Virginia, but we hadn’t done all the research we need to do, and we pulled it down after an hour,” said John Myers, director of the West Virginia Lottery.
US Sportsbooks want to offer political odds and may start making the push to allow such betting in other states. However, the odds are against the betting lines being available at US sportsbooks by the November election. This is especially the case if states need more time to research.