Refusing to Fold: Millions in Election Bets Remain Unsettled as Trump Clings to a Losing Hand

Posted on November 13, 2020 - Last Updated on November 26, 2020

If you are a long-shot junkie, there’s still time to place a wager on Donald Trump retaining the presidency rather than conceding to Joe Biden. But it may be quite a while before any election bets get paid out.

Biden clearly had votes to win by last Saturday

News organizations called the race last Saturday.

Just consider: the Electoral College now favors Biden 290 votes to 232 for Trump (as of late afternoon Friday). The winner needs 270. And Trump trails Biden in the popular vote by more than 5 million ballots.

Can you say “loser”?

Sure, you can. But the problem is Trump cannot.

While there is an active review of votes in Georgia, where Biden is ahead, that’s not going to alter the clear outcome: Biden won.

But Trump remains in denial, playing a losing imitation of a boxer’s rope-a-dope but unable to launch a surprise counterattack. His lawyers are bloodied, repeatedly beaten during so-far fruitless legal challenges.

Which leads to not settling election bets

Wagering on elections is not legal in the US, such as at regulated PA sportsbooks.

One way around this is predictive markets with “contracts” available in penny increments, which is exactly how PredictIt works.

Wagers still on the board for PredictIt include:

  • Either candidate conceding by Nov. 17, which is seen as unlikely and growing unlikelier by the day.
  • Biden is seen as the winner at 92 cents to 12 cents.
  • House Leader Nancy Pelosi becoming president on Jan. 20 seen as hugely unlikely at 95 cents against.

Still, overseas bookmakers and even PredictIt are holding off on paying out pre-election wagers. PredictIt won’t close its markets until recounts and any litigation is finished, Brandi Travis of PredictIt told Bloomberg Wealth.

This means gamblers could potentially be waiting weeks, if not months, to get their payouts.

“It’s bad for the country, and it’s bad for our site,” Travis told Bloomberg.

The same goes for British platform Betfair, which states on its website:

“We will only settle the markets when there is certainty around which candidate has the most projected Electoral College votes.”

Some betting sites still accepting presidential election bets

On the flip side, Betfair and others continued accepting bets on Trump to win following the official Election Day. Betfair is no longer accepting wagers, though. But it is holding an unpaid $1.32 million bet that will pay out $2 million if/when it confirms Biden has won.

Betfair has a staggering $600 million in wagers on the contest. Other oddsmakers are also holding back on settling.

That’s largely because making a mistake on election payoffs is costly. The Irish gambling platform PaddyPower paid out more than $1 million on Hillary Clinton as the winner — before Election Day in 2016.

There are still some oddball election bets out there even now. The site 888 offers action on whether or not Trump will last the full term in office — betting “no” has 6-1 odds. Others have posted odds of Biden winning the 2024 election (at around 12-1).

And there’s even a wager for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris taking over the presidency in 2022.

Smarkets, a UK-based betting exchange that operates somewhat like PredictIt, is taking wagers on what year Trump is no longer president. While better than 94% are wagering 2021, 5% are wagering 2025 or later.

When is it time to throw in the towel?

MarketWatch interviewed a poker player, a boxing coach, a Monopoly champion and a chess coach about why a loser might concede — or not.

Asher Conniff, a pro poker player out of Brooklyn, NY, had this take on why Trump has yet to fold:

‘Trump has nothing to lose. The party may have something to lose, and even that’s debatable. It’s what we call a free roll. He might as well try to win, and if he loses, he just kind of goes home. He’s not betting anything.”

But boxing coach Ryan O’Leary has a different take:

‘”It’s time for [Trump] to just throw in the towel; he doesn’t have a puncher’s chance.”

Lead image via Dreamstime/Cafebeanz Company

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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