Ballot Betting: Everything You Need to Know About Gambling on Elections

March 17, 2020
| Report Focus News

In a world where the art of prediction is a full-time business, it’s not surprising that it is possible to place a bet on just about anything. Bookies across America and beyond have run odds on everything from weather predictions to celebrity marriages, with punters often being more than happy to place a wager.

In the world of politics, where the pundit class makes millions of dollars trying to offer predictions on the outcomes of elections, referendums, and scandals, betting is a commonplace occurrence. Both politics junkies and average members of the public have placed a wager on political outcomes for decades now, and the industry for gambling on politics is continuing to grow. Here’s what you need to know.


1. Is Gambling on Politics Legal in America?

If you’re wondering whether betting on politics is actually legal in the US, the short answer is yes. Once upon a time, placing wagers with bookmakers on political developments was explicitly banned in several states, with only Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and Nevada being allowed to take wagers.

However, all of this changed when the Supreme Court slapped down PASPA, the legislation that had prevented people from betting on politics and other kinds of activity. Since then, individual states have been free to allow people to bet on politics as they see fit, using either online or physical bookmakers to do so.

Americans have been betting on politics for over a century. During the 1916 national elections between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes, hotels in New York City took millions of dollars worth of bets from people from all parts of the political spectrum.

In smaller towns across America, the entire community would gather in the town square during elections, where designated bookkeepers would take wagers from the crowd. That tradition remains alive to this day.

2. How Do People Bet on Politics?

If you’re new to betting on politics, you might be confused about how the whole thing actually works. Basically, bookmakers offer odds on specific political outcomes. They may offer odds on the next winner of the Presidential Elections, or on the potential outcomes of impeachment proceedings.

The public are free to pick an outcome and wager money on it, standing to win a profit if the developments they are betting on go in the favor.

Right now, you can use national bookmaker websites to view the odds and bet on the 2020 Democratic Nominee. Joe Biden is currently leading the pack with the most favorable odds, but this could change as the race trundles on and the fortunes of different candidates rise and fall. Bookies keep a close eye on real-world events and adjust the odds of political outcomes accordingly.

That’s why many political pundits themselves actually rely on bookmakers’ odds to find out more about how certain political developments are evolving, since the amount of research that goes into calculating odds can be pretty immense.

Whether you’re a keen politico nerd or just interested in making the next election a little more interesting, bookmakers are a powerful resource. Make sure to keep track of the latest odds if you want to know which way the political winds are currently blowing.