Political Betting in the US in 2020

Politics and betting are not a natural duo. The US elections, including the Presidential and Congressional are huge at betting sites around the world. Unfortunately, US residents do not have any legal platform where political betting is available.

If you want to place a bet legally on sports, below are our top 3 picks. These are LEGAL sportsbooks, but they do not offer election betting odds. More on why this the case below.

Legal Sports Betting Sites in the US

FanDuel Sportsbook
Risk-Free Bet – 21+, New Customers Only
up to $1000
William Hill Sports Book
Risk-Free Bet – 21+, New Customers Only
up to $500
PLAYINGLEGAL500
PointsBet Sports
Risk-Free Bets – 21+, New Customers Only
up to $1500
LEGAL1500
Up to $500 Back If You Lose Your First Fixed Odds Bet AND Up to $1,000 Back If You Lose Your First PointsBetting Wager

Is Betting on Politics Legal in the US?

Betting on politics is illegal in the USA. There are no legal online sportsbooks that offer election betting odds. As long as there is no agreement on the matter on a federal level, US sportsbooks will not be allowed to offer politics betting odds.

PlayingLegal.com recommends avoiding illegal offshore bookmakers that offer US politics betting, because you risk your winnings not being paid out. For the time being, stick to legal sports betting.

Can You Bet on the 2020 US Presidential Election?

US residents cannot bet on the 2020 US Presidential election. With the short time window, it is impossible to reach a Federal agreement that will legalize political betting odds in the US.

US bettors will have to wait a bit longer, at least until the next 2024 US Presidential elections.

Betting on US Politics Out of the USA

While US bettors cannot bet legally on the elections taking place in the US, bettors from Europe, Australia, Canada and many other countries are having a blast doing so. As a matter of fact, US politics betting comes with the widest variety of betting markets. However, US political events are also the ones with the most exposure at non-US betting sites.

The following seem to dominate the Politics odds section at an EU bookmaker.

Popular US Politics Betting Events
US Presidential ElectionsUSA Congress Elections
Debate WinnersSpecials (Trump)

Based on the nature of the election, one come with much more bet types, whereas, say the US Presidential Election comes with more straightforward bet markets.

Election Betting Odds VS Sports Odds

Odds for elections work much differently from sports betting odds.

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 election campaign (caucus results, opinion polls, pre-election predictions by experts), prices and lines constantly shift.

Underlying Trading Principle Still Applies

Regardless of how volatile politics elections are and can be, the underlying “odds trading” principles still apply. Betting traders from the sportsbooks will adjust the odds accordingly, based on what bettors are going for. Odds change, not only because of what’s going on during the political campaign, but because this is one of the ways the betting operator can make a profit, regardless of who the winner will be.

In general, if the majority of “money” is placed on option A, the operator will reduce the odds for that candidate. In addition, the odds for the other candidate will be slightly increased

US Presidential Election Betting Markets

For more than two decades, betting on the US Presidential Elections is a big thing at EU based sportsbooks. These are the betting markets non-US bettors can find odds for, months up to a year before the elections.

Bet MarketPopularityRisk LevelRecommended for
Winner of the Presidential Elections9/102/5Casual Bettors
Swing States2/103/5Experts
Electoral College Vote8/103/5Advanced
Popular Vote Winner7/102/5Advanced
Popular Vote Percentage3/105/5Experienced Bettors
US Presidential Elections Winning Party8/104/5Casual Bettors

  • The “Popularity” column shows how popular the bet type is among bettors. The higher the number, the more popular a betting market is. In general, if you are not experienced with betting, or politics, stick to the ones that are considered “mainstream”. Chances are you have enough understanding of the situation to make the experience fun.
  • The “Risk Level” illustrates how risky each of the showcased political betting markets is. Again, the higher the value, the riskier the bet will be. Another way you can easily interpret the odds is to compare the gap between the odds for different outcomes. If the spread, the difference isn’t big, that makes the bet VOLATILE. You cannot control volatility. However, if the odds are quite generous, and there are more than a couple options, that bet can be labelled RISKY.
  • Lastly, to make thing simpler, the last column points out what type of bettors will find each of the betting markets. Any knowledge in politics and betting is relevant

Winner of the Presidential Elections

This is the most straightforward betting market and it’s self-explanatory. Betting on the candidate that wins the election makes your bet a winner. It’s a popular type of bet among people who have never placed a single sports bet in their life. Odds do not vary greatly, making this a “fun” bet, sort of.

Swing States

In my opinion, the most attractive political betting market, and at the same time, the most exciting one is Swing States. The odds can be extremely polarized. In addition, because these are the states where candidates clash, Swing States brings the best bet opportunities. In simple words, the Federal election is treated as a “state” election.

Popular Vote Winner

Bettors get to bet on who will win the Popular Vote, completely ignoring the Electoral College. According to many, this is the least volatile bet you can place on US politics.

However, there is a sub-betting market as well. You can raise the stakes, and in doing so, the odds as well.

Then again, to win, you will need to predict the percentage of the votes for the candidate. The increments are usually 3%, starting with as little as 43.00-45.99%, going as high as 58.00-60.99%.

Electoral College Vote

With the state representatives elected, you can also bet on the outcome of the Electoral College vote. Similar to the “sub-betting market” of the Popular Vote, bettors can bet on how many Electoral votes will a Presidential Candidate win.

The increments are 30, starting with 119 or less, going all the way to 390 or more. Bear in mind, the odds are not always realistic. Some of the offered outcomes should be ignored from the get-go.

US Presidential Elections Winning Party

Predict which party will win the elections and you have yourself a winning bet. Due to the polarization of US politics, betting on the winning party is rather similar to betting on who will be the next US president. In most cases, your opinion about who the next president will be is relevant to this betting market as well. The outcomes are closely related.

USA Congressional Elections

With a congressional election every two years, bettors who like to bet on politics have twice as many betting opportunities than with the US presidential elections. Odds are available almost non-stop. However, they change quite often, which means people are showing interest regularly. Also, this can mean that sports betting traders are trying to lure in more bettors by increasing the odds.

Here are all events you can bet on related to the US Congressional Elections.

Bet MarketPopularityRisk LevelRecommended for
Most Seats6/102/5Casual Bettors
Senate Majority9/103/5Casual Bettors
Senate (per state)7/10VariesAdvanced

Most Seats

A simple, straight bet, which party will have the most seats in the Senate? However, the odds can be rather disappointing, especially when the Congressional and the Presidential elections are taking place in the same year. If you really like to place a bet on the US Congressional Election, and you like somewhat exciting odds, the other betting markets are recommended.

Senate Majority

Much better odds, which makes this option much more exciting and fun to bet on! Sportsbooks include Republicans, Democrats and there’s always a chance that there won’t be an overall majority.

Senate (Per State)

If you decide to go on a state by state level, you will be truly disappointed by the odds. Unless a miracle happens, the favorite will win, and the odds for the favorite are so low you might as well ignore this market. However, surprises do happen, and it is then that you make the biggest profits.

Overall, it can be an interesting betting market, but only if you are backing the underdog.

Debate Winners

Debates are important for the coming election, but they are also relevant in sportsbooks. This is as close as a politics “competition” can get to a regular sports competition. Nevertheless, that’s the case only if you are betting on who the winner will be of the debate.

There are also prop bets available, such as:

  • Color of a candidate’s tie
  • Country with most mentions (e.g. Russia/China)
  • Is there going to be a handshake before/after the debate
  • A candidate to fall asleep during the debate

Some of these are straight out weird, but then again, some are pretty cool and seem like fun bets. On top of this, the odds are decent.

Trump Betting Specials in 2020

There are loads of Trump betting specials, which are considered a “hiccup” in the political betting community. Nevertheless, all of the below mentioned points are/were part of legit non-US sportsbooks.

  • Area 51 – simply put, whether Trump is going to open Area 51 to the public. In addition, the odds were decent, averaging +300.
  • Gestures of Goodwill – among other things, these specials included Trump granting dual nationality to all Mexicans in the US at odds of +30000
  • Mexico to Pay for the Wall – as the title suggests, the bet is basically if Mexico is really going to pay for the wall. Odds were +1200
  • Trump and Putin to Receive Join Nobel Peace Prize – following today’s news, this is far from becoming reality. The odds that it happens were sitting at +5000.
  • Domestic Policy Specials – this is somewhat controversial, but also very popular. Bettors could place a bet if Trump is going to put a ban on Abortion (+300), Gay Marriage (+600), Gay Adoption (8+700) and Women’s Voting Rights (+30000) among few others.
  • Physical Appearances Specials – the bet market went beyond politics, and into Trump’s private stuff. Bettors could bet if Trump is going to admit he had some form of hair surgery (+500), or if he is going to dye his hair red, white and blue (+20000)
  • to Win a Nobel Peace Prize before end of his 1st Term – it’s a bet that settles with the 2020 elections. If, say, it wasn’t limited to the 1st term, it could take much longer to settle all bets place on this outcome.
  • to Withdraw US from the UN – surprisingly, according to sportsbooks this is not something that’s so unlikely, because the odds were only +700.

These are just a part of what sportsbooks out of the US are offering odds for. Trump really made an impression, and people are willing to be on it! Hopefully, there will be a consensus on a Federal level to legalize politics betting, and US residents can finally enjoy legal election betting odds.

Alternatives to Political Betting – Trading

With the absence of official and legal election betting odds, an alternative showed up. However, it’s not legal. It’s a matter of interpretation and enforcement. Regardless, below you can find two platforms which kind of offer a type of betting, but it has more similarities with trading than it does with betting.

Both prediction platforms 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.

PredictIt

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.

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.

In 2012, the CFTC officially prohibited listing or trading of political event contracts.

Politics Betting FAQs

Is political betting legal in the United States?

No. US residents cannot bet on politics at any US online sportsbook. Betting sites that hold US licenses do not offer any kind of election betting odds. Political betting has become a hot topic in recent years with the fast expansions of legal online betting in the US.

How to bet on politics online if you’re an American?

US citizens cannot bet legally on politics. Regardless of what elections are the odds provided for, political betting is illegal on the grounds of the USA. No sportsbook regulated by official US regulator is allowed to offer conventional betting odds on US or other elections.

How do betting odds work for presidential election?

Initial odds are offered by the sportsbook based on their research. Over time, as bettors start placing bets, traders change the odds to ensure they are making profit. Based on what’s going on with the campaigns, and what people are betting on, the odds change. Sometimes there can be dramatic shifts, especially soon before the presidential election.

What site offers election betting odds in the US?

There are no legal US sportsbooks that offer election betting odds. Betting on politics is illegal in the US because there isn’t a Federal consensus on betting primarily, and on political betting. Betting on politics should be legalized because off-shore illegal bookmakers are offering such odds already.

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