Is Betting on Politics Legal in the US?
The answer to whether election betting is legal within the United States is more complicated than at first blush. In short, the answer is no. You cannot place wagers on elections at any legal US sportsbooks, physical or online. However, there are exceptions to election and political betting, such as prediction markets and free-to-enter contests run by FanDuel and DraftKings.
Ultimately, there is a significant interest in election betting, whether here in the US or internationally. A simple Google search yields an abundance of expert picks plus election betting odds and predictions.
But, wait just a minute. FanDuel in West Virginia had up election odds briefly in April 2020. So, what gives?
Difference Between Election Betting Versus Political Props
Remember when I said the legality of election betting is complicated? Well, it turns out, there needs to be an important distinction made between election betting and political props.
Election betting refers explicitly to the outcome of an election. In comparison, political prop betting is not determined by the outcome of an election. To compare, think of the Super Bowl and more of the entertainment value prop bets.
Can You Bet on the 2020 US Presidential Election?
No, you cannot bet on the 2020 US Presidential Election at any legal US sportsbook. Unfortunately, with the election coming up in November, the time frame is just too short for any federal legalization to come to pass.
For a brief moment in April 2020, FanDuel in West Virginia posted odds and even, accepted wagers on the election. Keep in mind you can wager with prediction markets or free-to-enter contests by US sportsbooks.
FanDuel WV Briefly Posts Election Odds
To recap, major sportsbooks, BetMGM, FanDuel and DraftKings petitioned the West Virginia Lottery to allow legal wagers on federal political elections. After gaining a very short-lived approval from the lottery, only FanDuel posted odds for the US Presidential Election.
In fact, FanDuel even accepted two wagers from the odds posted. These wagers were later voided and refunded, as the West Virginia Lottery backtracked and reconsidered the prior approval. As a reminder, political betting is illegal anyway by West Virginia Code §3-9-22.
However, listed below are the albeit, brief odds offered by FanDuel for the winner of the 2020 Presidential election plus other political betting odds.
|Winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election||Odds|
|Democratic VP Nomination||Odds|
|Winning Political Party||Odds|
Betting on US Politics Out of the USA
Internationally, betting on US politics is rising in popularity. In fact, you may even bet on props such as fun Trump Betting Specials, which are offered by international sportsbooks, not available here in the US. Sportsbooks and bettors carefully observe the US political landscape, which is evident as the lines and odds shift with daily events.
Bet on Politics with Prediction Markets
Other names for prediction markets are betting markets or, more precisely, in this article, political betting markets. Wager with real money on the 2020 Presidential Election safely and securely, by choosing the two prediction markets available PredictIt and the Iowa Electronic Markets.
Both prediction markets secured no-action letters from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. To be clear, no-action letters do not mean that both PredictIt and Iowa Electronic Markets are entirely legal. Instead, it means that the CFTC does not recommend legal action against them. Because of the complicated legality surrounding political betting in the US, the CFTC granted these requests due to educational benefits such as data sharing.
Based out of New Zealand, PredictIt is operated and owned by the Victoria University of Wellington. Also, Aristole International, Inc. provides data processing and verification services for the platform. As a nonprofit and educational program, PredictIt has many data research partners from highly prestigious higher learning institutes such as Harvard, Yale and Cambridge, to name a few.
As a “trader” on PredictIt, you can only buy shares via a “yes” or “no” answer. Additionally, prices (odds) are based on supply and demand. The shares are priced anywhere from $0.01 to $0.99, dependent on market probability. As the value of the share fluctuates, you may choose to sell for some profit or as a stop-loss before the market closes. Once the market closes, “Yes” shares get paid out at $1.
Also, instead of using the term bet, PredictIt calls them “contracts.” A fundamental limitation is that each individual contract is limited to a maximum of $850. Also, there is a 10% fee on your profit. Funds cannot be withdrawn until 30 days after your initial deposit, and there is a 5% fee on withdrawals.
Iowa Electronic Markets
Owned and operated by the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM) is also a nonprofit and educational program. Again, this is why the CFTC granted not just one, but two no-action letters.
A key difference between IEM and PredictIt is the limitation on an individual “contract” is $500. Also, withdrawals are only processed on the 15th and 30th of each month.
FanDuel and DraftKings Free-to-Enter Contests
For the first time, both FanDuel and DraftKings posted free-to-enter fantasy contests in 2020. Basically, you pick and choose the political outcome and submit your picks. These contests are free-to-enter precisely because of legal and regulatory reasons.
FanDuel 2020 Democratic Debate Contest
Actually, in case you need a refresher, FanDuel originally was Hubdub, which is a political prediction game. In March, FanDuel offered a free-to-enter fantasy contest on the 2020 Democratic Primary Debate.
The FanDuel Democratic Debate Fantasy asked players to guess what phrases would be most used by the candidates during the debate.
FanDuel Risk-Free $1000 Bet
How Is Sports Betting Different to Political Betting?
If you're an experienced sports bettor looking to make the jump into political betting markets, be aware there are differences between political and sports betting.
Sports versus Political Betting
Firstly, notice that prices are normally ‘shorter' (or less profitable) than sports betting odds. With the general public vocalizing opinions and speculating on political outcomes, a bookmaker or political prediction markets set the odds on whether Donald Trump will win the 2020 election.
If you compare to any sporting event, there is the off-chance the underdog may win despite having a heavy favorite. Of course, this occurred in the 2016 US Presidential Election already when Trump won.
Secondly, the world of politics is rather fickle. All you need is a sex scandal or an off-hand comment and suddenly, the candidate's reputation is in the gutter. A political front-runner can easily become garbage overnight in the eyes of the voters.
Furthermore, while the odds are generally short, you might find a couple of markets that do offer crazy odds. In detail, there are some fabulous Trump Betting Specials in 2020 offered by Paddy Power Betfair. Unfortunately, this sportsbook is not available to US residents.
Finally, odds can be impacted by public knowledge. Since information is released regularly over the course of an en election campaign (caucus results, opinion polls, pre-election predictions by experts), prices and lines constantly shift.
Who Will Win the 2020 US Presidential Election?
Here is a snapshot of PredictIt’s market prices as of Sept. 21 for who will win the 2020 US Presidential Election:
|Candidate||Sept. 21||30 Day||90 Day|
|Joe Biden||$0.58||$0.55 to $0.60||$0.55 to $0.63|
|Donald Trump||$0.46||$0.43 to $0.48||$0.38 to $0.46|
Notably, swing states are the states that could swing in other party’s direction: Democrat or Republican. Of the 16 swing states listed below, notice that most of them are listed on the DraftKings’ 2020 Presidential Election Pool.
PredictIt market prices Sept. 21 for swing states:
Electoral College Vote
With the electoral college making up 538 electors, at least 270 electoral college votes are required to win the presidential election.
Will the winner of the popular vote also win the Electoral College?
|Answer||Sept. 21||30 Day||90 Day|
|Yes||$0.72||$0.67 to $0.74||$0.67 to $0.78|
What will be the Electoral College margin in the 2020 presidential election?
|Republican||Sept. 21||30 Day||90 Day|
|GOP by 280+||$0.04||N/A||N/A|
|GOP by 210 – 279||$0.03||N/A||N/A|
|GOP by 150 – 209||$0.05||N/A||N/A|
|GOP by 100 – 149||$0.09||$0.07 to $0.13||$0.04 to $0.13|
|GOP by 60 – 99||$0.10||$0.09 to $0.12||$0.06 to $0.11|
|GOP by 30 – 59||$0.06||N/A||N/A|
|GOP by 10 – 29||$0.05||N/A||N/A|
|GOP by 0 – 9||$0.04||N/A||N/A|
|Democrats||Sept. 21||30 Day||90 Day|
|Dems by 1 – 9||$0.03||N/A||N/A|
|Dems by 10 – 29||$0.04||N/A||N/A|
|Dems by 20 – 59||$0.07||N/A||N/A|
|Dems by 60 – 99||$0.10||$0.08 to $0.10||$0.08 to $0.13|
|Dems by 100 – 149||$0.16||$0.13 to $0.17||$0.12 to $0.17|
|Dems by 150 – 209||$0.12||$0.10 to $0.13||$0.10 to $0.15|
|Dems by 210 – 279||$0.10||N/A||N/A|
|Dems by 280+||$0.08||N/A||N/A|
Popular Vote Winner
Will Trump win the most votes (popular votes) in the 2020 US Presidential Election?
|Sept. 21||30 Day||90 Day|
|Donald Trump||$0.19||$0.19 to $0.26||$0.15 to $0.26|
Popular Vote Margin
What will the popular vote margin be in the 2020 presidential election?
|Democrats||Sept. 21||30 Day||90 Day|
|Dems by 10.5% or more||$0.15||$0.12 to $0.17||$0.12 to $0.24|
|Dems by 9.0% – 10.5%||$0.09||N/A||N/A|
|Dems by 7.5% – 9.0%||$0.13||$0.10 to $0.13||$0.10 to $0.14|
|Dems by 6.0% – 7.5%||$0.13||$0.12 to $0.13||$0.11 to $0.14|
|Dems by 4.5% – 6.0%||$0.12||$0.12 to $0.13||$0.11 to $0.13|
|Dems by 3.0% – 4.5%||$0.11||$0.11 to $0.13||$0.09 to $0.13|
|Dems by 1.5% – 3.0%||$0.09||$0.09 to $0.11||$0.08 to $0.11|
|Dems by less than 1.5%||$0.07|
*PredictIt does not have lines for GOP for 30 Day or 90 Day.
US Presidential Elections Winning Party
Which party will win the 2020 US Presidential Election?
US Congress Elections
Through PredictIt, you may even wager on US Congressional elections. Here are some of the current betting markets:
- Who will control the House after 2020?
- Clean Sweep for Democrats in 2020?
- Balance of power after the 2020 election?
- Democrat House, Democrat Senate
- Democrat House, Republican Senate
- Who will control the House after 2020?
- House seats won by Democrats in 2020?
- Pelosi to become Acting President on 1/20?
- How many freshmen Congress members to be re-elected in 2020?
Also, specifically, there are betting markets for certain contested US Congressional Districts:
- Which party wins the ME-02 House race?
- Will Steve King be re-elected?
The following Senate betting markets are available:
- When will the SCOTUS confirmation vote occur before or after Nov. 3?
- Will there be a net change in Senate seats?
- Will there be a clean sweep for Democrats in 2020?
- What will the balance of power be after the 2020 election?
- D House, D Senate
- D House, R Senate
- State Senate race with the smallest MOV in 2020?
- Who will control the Senate after 2020?
- Will the Senate convict Trump in 1st term?
- Who will control the Senate after 2022?
Senate (Per State)
Currently, through PredictIt, you may bet on the 2020 Senate races in the following states:
- Regular GA Senate Race
- First Place GOP in GA Senate Special
Three 2020 US Presidential Debates are scheduled. Looking at the political betting odds and markets, it certainly appears that Trump is expected to outperform Biden. Yet, overseas it seems that online sportsbooks give Biden the odds to win at -175 for the first debate.
Again, keep in mind these odds are overseas, and betting on the debate is not currently available at legal US sportsbooks or PredictIt.
Overseas Trump Betting Specials in 2020
These bets are fun and more geared towards political prop betting with high entertainment value. Overseas, there are some international and UK legal sportsbooks that offer these outrageous bets. However, here in the US, you cannot wager on these legally.
- Area 51:
- Trump to open Area 51 to the public during his first term in office
- Trump to announce that alien lifeforms exist
- Gestures of Goodwill:
- Any Mexican airport to be named after Trump +6600
- Trump to grant dual US nationality to all Mexicans +30000
- Mexico to Pay for the Wall:
- Mexico to directly fund construction of a US border-wall +1200
- Trump and Putin to Receive Joint Nobel Peace Prize +5000
- Domestic Policy Specials
- Homeland Security Specials
- Narcissism Specials:
- To have a US navy ship named after him +700
- To have a US military base named after him +1200
- To have his likeness minted on US currency during his term +10000
- Trump to commission his face to be added to Mount Rushmore in 2018 +10000
- Physical Appearances Specials
- To confirm he has had some form of hair surgery +500
- To surgically enhance his penis +5000
- To dye his hair red, white and blue +20000
- To surgically enhance his hands +5000
- Religion Specials
- To deny the existence of God +2000
- Trump to convert to Scientology +2500
- Pope to excommunicate Trump +3300
- Trump to convert to Islam +15000
- To Win a Nobel Peace Prize Before End of His 1st Term
- Prior to nomination +10000 after nomination +1400
- To Withdraw US from the UN +700
PredictIt Trump Betting Markets
However, here are some of the Trump Betting specials you may wager on through PredictIt.
- Trump to switch parties by 11/3/20?
- Will there be a 1st term recession under Trump?
- Trump’s next SCOTUS nominee to be a woman?
- Trump’s next SCOTUS nominee?
- Will Trump complete his first term?
- Trump to win the popular vote in 2020?
- Epstein pardon in Trump’s first term?
- Senate to convict Trump in the first term?
- Trump to resign in first term?
- Trump to pardon Giuliani before the end of 2020?
- Who is the next White House Cabinet member to leave?
- Will Trump offer Flynn clemency in his first term?
- Will Trump offer Manafort clemency in his first term?
- Will Trump self-pardon in his first term?
- Will Trump win any state he lost in 2016?
- Will Trump lose any state he won in 2016?
- Will Trump drop out before 11/1?
- Will a Trump-Kim meeting take place in 2020?
History of US Presidential Election and Political Betting
Professors Paul W. Rhode and Koleman Strumpf examined the long history of political betting. Without a doubt, betting on elections is certainly not novel. Going back to the 1500s, historians noted that betting markets existed on elections plus the papacy. In fact, even in the early 1500s, papal wagering was already considered to be “an old practice.”
Here in the United States, it easily follows that political betting existed even before the Civil War. In detail, supporters of candidates would offer up public bets as a cultural norm. The media outlets of the time, newspapers, often published articles regarding election wagers placed. High wagers were not unusual, and even politicians often got involved in placing bets.
Around the turn of the century, the 1890s to early 1900s, election betting started to evolve, moving into the financial district and Wall Street. Then, the state of New York took on an anti-gambling stance around 1910, passing the Hart-Agnew act, which outlawed bookmaking on horse racing specifically but affected election betting as well. Even still, newspapers openly published articles regarding where to place wagers with brokers.
While the legislation did cause a brief lull in political betting, the 1916 presidential election drew in a staggering $10 million, which roughly translates to $205 million in 2010. Then, the decline of Wall Street and election betting came in the 1940s due to many factors. Namely, scientific polling and horse racing became legal.
Despite the fact that I am a strong advocate of line shopping, I do not recommend ever depositing or wagering on an offshore sportsbook. Why? Most importantly, offshore sportsbooks are illegal. Secondly, when you choose to wager on an illegal, offshore sportsbook, your funds and personal information are at risk. Playing on a legal US sportsbook rather than an illegal bookie offers you the safety and security of knowing your funds and personal information is safe.
For help with problem gambling, call 1-800-GAMBLER or consult the National Council for Problem Gambling.