Can You Bet the Presidential Election in PA? Not Exactly, But You Can Do This

Posted on November 2, 2020 - Last Updated on November 29, 2020

Wagering on the outcome of the presidential election isn’t allowed in the USA, but there is still a huge betting interest in the contest.

Today, Betfair, an online British company with the same ownership as its sister American company FanDuel, accepted a nearly $1.3 million wager on former Vice President Joe Biden to best President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

If Biden does indeed win, the wager will pay out more than $1.985 million.

Big bucks on the line in US presidential election betting

According to Betfair spokesman Sam Rosbottom:

“The bet is the biggest political bet of all time on the Betfair Exchange and returns a handsome £1,540,000 if Biden wins the keys to the White House.

“The 2016 US election’s record for being the biggest single betting event of all time was broken by last week.”

Rosbottom projected that the total amount wagered on the presidential election would exceed $515.7 million.

FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy explained:

“Election betting in Europe is huge. If Trump wins, it would cost Flutter’s European businesses more than $10 million. The current odds in Europe are Biden, 2/5 (implied probability of 71.4%), and Trump, 15/8 (implied probability of 34.8%).

“The trend over the last few weeks, again, has been toward Biden — although Trump remains less of a write-off than he was at this stage of the last election (when he was priced at 4/1 — 20% probability). Trump accounts for the biggest number of bets (67%) and the most volume (80%).”

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Far more wagered on election than on huge sporting events

Late last week, CNN reported:

“The amount wagered on the US election to date is more than the combined wagering on Betfair for the four most bet-upon sporting events: the 2017 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor boxing match, the 2018 World Cup, the 2019 Grand National horse race and the 2020 Super Bowl.”

Betfair put Tump’s odds of winning the popular vote at just 35%.

But let’s not be too hasty just yet: Trump’s average odds one day before polls opened in 2016 were listed at 18%.

RealClearPolitics aggregates data and polling

While not a betting site, the data and polling aggregation site RealClearPolitics is projecting Trump’s chance of winning at from 33% to 38%, with an average of 35.3%.

On the other hand, Biden stands a 64% chance of winning according to RealClearPolitics, with a low of 61% to a high of 66%.

RealClear had Trump favored in the spring, with Biden first slipping ahead on June 1, a position he’s consistently maintained.

On the Keystone State level, there is less agreement among the polls surveyed by RealClear, though most favor Biden by an aggregate 2.9%.

Three polls — Susquehanna, Trafalgar and Inside Advantage — give Trump a lead of from 1% to 2%. But six polls favor Biden by as much as 7 points.

Predictive markets mirror gambling sites, but with tiny wagers

Since there are no legal political betting sites in the US, the closest facsimile is the predictive market, with PredictIt being the best-known site.

With predictive sites, market demand rather than handicappers set the odds, from the Electoral College to the popular vote and way more. PredictIt has 214 markets related to the presidential contest.

This is how it works, in the words posted on its site:

“You make predictions by buying shares. The price of a share, between 1 and 99 cents, corresponds to the market’s estimate of the probability of an event taking place. Buy ‘Yes’ shares when the price is too low when you think your fellow traders are underestimating this likelihood. Buy ‘No’ shares when you think they are too optimistic.

“The value of your shares will change over time. You may decide to sell your shares later on, either to take some profit or stop a loss. Or, you can hold onto your shares until the market closes. At that point, if the event in the market has taken place, we’ll redeem ‘Yes’ shares at $1. If it has not, ‘No’ shares will have that $1 value instead.”

Biden favored on PredictIt

On PredictIt, Biden is clearly favored at 65 cents to 42 cents for Trump in the popular vote tally, but the electoral contest is essentially a toss-up.

PA is the “tipping state” according to PredictIt‘s market, meaning whichever candidate takes the Keystone State is favored to win the overall national election. A wager on PA is going for 42 cents, while other battleground states, such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, trail considerably.

On PredictIt, a call on the election winner is expected on either Nov. 3 or 4 or not until far later. There is even a market for Speaker Nancy Pelosi becoming president temporarily if no clear winner is decided by noon on Jan. 20.

FanDuel offering free play Bet the Ballot Contest

FanDuel customers respond to a series of questions and wager tokens on each selection’s corresponding odds in FanDuel’s free play Bet the Ballot Contest.

But the contest is static. The odds for each selection have not changed since Oct. 19.

According to FanDuel, “The goal of the game is to amass as many tokens as possible, so selecting the answer with the longer odds is a potential strategy customers may be employing over specific voting interest. Which is a way of saying it is not really predictive of the actual election results.”

Trump is favored at Bet the Ballot. That’s because the odds are better with a Trump bet: Trump 57% (+138) and Biden at 43% (-175).

FanDuel Bet the Ballot betting splits

Here’s a look at betting splits for FanDuel’s free election poll contest, as of Monday afternoon.

Who will win the US presidency? 

  • Trump 57% (+138); Biden 43% (-175)

Will either candidate win the popular vote by 10% or more?

  • No 56% (-200); Yes 44% (+175)

Will Biden be the first Democrat to win Texas since 1976?

  • No 72% (-333); Yes 28% (+225)

Who will win Florida?

  • Trump 70% (+110); Biden 30% (-150)

Who will win PA?

  • Trump 54% (+225); Biden 46% (-350)

Who will win Michigan?

  • Trump 45% (+225); Biden 55% (-350)

Who will win Iowa?

  • Trump 62% (-175); Biden 38% (+125)

Who will win Nevada?

  • Trump 49% (+225); Biden 51% (-350)

DraftKings also has a free election pool contest

DraftKings Sportsbook has a free play pool known as the Election Before the Election. The pool offers up to $100,000 in prizes. There are 1,000 tokens and 17 questions to “wager” on.

Lead image via FanDuel twitter.

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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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