Oscars, Presidential Election, Weather: You Can Bet Them, But Not At PA Sportsbooks

Written By Kevin Shelly on January 27, 2020 - Last Updated on October 17, 2022
You can bet on the weather but not in PA

Life is a gamble from beginning to end, not just on sporting events. And plenty of offbeat bets are available if you do a bit of looking.

There is a caveat, though, in Pennsylvania. In PA sports gambling, wagers are only allowed on official, designated sports, so no truly offbeat bets available except for some interesting prop bets.

Well, mostly, as we’ll see later.

People will wager on anything

As Doug Harbach, of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), observed:

“People will wager anything. However, sports is it here in PA.”

PA’s gaming law allows sportsbook wagers in the Keystone State only on professional or collegiate athletic events, Harbach explained.

That primarily means football, basketball, and baseball, though some obscure sports, such as snooker and darts, are available at some PA online betting apps.

And, then there are prop bets, which can get quirky.

Prop bets stick to the players, the game in PA

DraftKings Sportsbook has more than 400 options for the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 between the 49ers and Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, which certainly make for some offbeat betting options within the sport of football.

For instance, a shutout of either team is now at +4,000, as are the odds for a field goal made by either side with no time on the clock at the end of the third quarter.

FanDuel, Unibet, SugarHouse, Fox Bet, and BetRivers also have many prop options.

Unfortunately for avid oddball prop bettors, there will be no betting on the coin toss, the color of the postgame Gatorade shower, or the length of the national anthem, which will be sung by Demi Lovato.

No Oscar wagering in PA, but that’s true in most jurisdictions

The sports-only wagering rule has particular meaning at this time of the year in the Keystone State. The Oscars are coming up on Feb. 9, and many interested parties will be looking for lines to make the awards show viewing all the more exciting.

But those in PA will find no such lines. There is no Oscar wagering allowed in Pennsylvania. Oscar betting is, however, allowed in neighboring New Jersey. Recently, Indiana of all places became the second US state to add wagering options on the Oscars.

Regarding those Oscar betting lines in NJ and IN, early odds-making favor the World War I drama 1917 as the best picture winner. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) and Renee Zellweger (Judy) are early favorites for the Best Actor and Best Actress categories.

Overseas, there are markets in Europe and Asia that take wagers on the Oscars and other awards season shows, such as BAFTA.

Surprisingly, no Oscar bets are allowed in Las Vegas. Like in PA, sporting events are the only sportsbook wagers permitted in Nevada.

It isn’t just the Oscars you can’t bet on in PA

Awards show outcomes are not all that you can’t wager on through online and retail PA sportsbooks.

Others bets not allowed include:

  • Elections and politics
  • Weather
  • Nobel Peace Prize
  • Reality TV, such as Big Brother
  • TV talent competitions, such as America’s Got Talent
  • World Series of Poker
  • Chess, Scrabble, and board games
  • Alien life verified

Those wacky wagers and more can be made elsewhere, such as books in Europe or Asia, and also on the unregulated black or gray market.

PredictIt and the offbeat predictions market

But there’s a way to legally bet in PA on many offbeat wagers, such as elections, entertainment, and weather through the not-quite-gambling sites that mostly don’t use real money.

As the Washington Post recently explained, these are referred to as “prediction markets” as opposed to gambling sites.

PredictIt is the best-known such site, a current-events futures stock exchange that poses hundreds of questions — each question being its own “market.”

Participants wager by creating portfolios with shares trading from 1 cent to $1, with the worth of a share equating to prices for a share. A 50-cent share shows the market thinks there is a 50 percent chance of something happening.

Company co-founder John Aristotle Phillips first made national news in the 1970s when he designed an atomic bomb for a seminar while attending Princeton University. Phillips now works from Washington, D.C., in conjunction with Victoria University in New Zealand, which runs the site. Predictit sells the statistical data it generates.

Presidential election, political odds on PredictIt

Last week PredictIt liked Joe Biden’s odds to become the Democrat nominee, at 38 cents. But Bernie Sanders was at 33 cents and Michael Bloomberg was at 12 cents. But as of Monday morning, Sanders stood at 39 cents, Biden at 34 cents, and Bloomberg at 13 cents. The rest of the field was valued at 8 cents or less.

The site on Monday favored Donald Trump as the eventual winner of a presidential contest at 48 cents, down a few since last week. Sanders is the top choice among Democrats but valued at just a quarter.

And, in a related question, PredictIt sees Trump losing the popular vote, with 70 cents banked on him again coming up short on the popular vote.

There are more unique options, too.

Last week, PredictIt thought John Bolton testifying before the US Senate was a loser at 20 cents, but that shot up to 51 cents by Monday following revelations about Trump in a forthcoming book by Bolton.

Major European sportsbooks also take action on the US presidential election. The most recent update at TheLines noted that Trump is becoming an even bigger favorite to win re-election in 2020, as Sanders’ odds were closing in on or surpassing those of Biden.

Other predictive markets

There are several other predictive markets available in the US, as well.

MediaPredict is an eclectic mix of entertainment, sports, and politics, and it sells the market data generated by the site.

HSX is all things Hollywood, which makes sense because its full name is Hollywood Stock Exchange. You can buy stock in movies, box office, and actors. The site is owned by a division of Cantor Fitzgerald, a New York brokerage. The data from the website sets the odds at overseas books.

And finally, there’s my favorite: TradeWeather.com. The site lets you wager on snow, rain, landfalls, and temps. Fitzgerald owns it, and it requires real money. And, yes, it’s quite ridiculous as noted in this article at TheLines.com about another weather betting site, Weather Battle.

While you can take a gamble on some oddball wagers in various markets, the only ones guaranteed by the PGCB will be at regulated PA sportsbooks on player and team performances, at least for the foreseeable future.

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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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