West Virginia Approves, Then Halts Political Betting
West Virginia looks set to become the first state in the United States to allow bettors to place wagers on politics. This would allow the state’s residents to put their money on who they think will win the 2020 presidential election.
West Virginia Lottery, the state’s regulator for sports betting, initially gave the green light for licensed sportsbooks to offer political betting markets. West Virginia’s licensed sportsbooks made the request for political betting markets to be allowed.
FanDuel jumped the gun
After receiving approval from the West Virgina Lottery, FanDuel was quick off the mark. The sports betting giant launched a number of political betting markets, including odds on who will win the 2020 presidential election.
However, these markets were taken down after just forty minutes. West Virgina Lottery officials said that the regulator still needs time to explore through the potential implications of these markets and to conduct further research.
FanDuel refunded all wagers that had been made on the political markets during those forty minutes.
Questions loom large
There are questions over whether or not West Virginia state law allows this type of betting. A passage in the West Virginia Code states:
Naturally, other states will be watching closely with interest to see what response political betting receives in West Virginia. If it is a success, many will likely follow suit, particularly due to the widespread sporting event cancellations that are ongoing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has previously said that wagers should not be allowed on political elections. With politics being such a popular and divisive subject in the United States, many sportsbooks see it as a massive opportunity to profit.
After briefly posting a presidential election betting market, FanDuel had priced current President Donald Trump as a slight favorite to win the 2020 election. The likely nominee for the Democrats, Joe Biden is a close second.
Other markets that FanDuel plans to release when given the green light include who will be the Democratic vice presidential nominee. DraftKings is also said to be closely following developments in the state.
Matt Kalish, cofounder and president of DraftKings North America, said: “While we are excited about the possibility of offering odds on politics and elections to our customers in West Virginia, we are taking the time to ensure we evaluate the opportunity thoroughly before posting any lines.”
Political betting has been popular across Europe in recent years. For the 2016 US presidential election, Betfair received nearly £200m ($247m) worth of bets. This broke the company’s record for the most money that was wagered on any sporting or political event.
Jimmy Vacarro, a Las Vegas oddsmaker, said that allowing election betting would be “bigger than anything we’ve ever done.” He has been posting odds for the 2020 presidential election through the South Point sportsbook for entertainment reasons. The casino does not accept any bets on this market.