Gamblers Outside the U.S. Take Presidential Odds on a Wild Ride


While voters throughout the country were glued to their TVs and reflexively refreshing news and political sites on Tuesday night, a few of the cannier ones were paying more attention to something else. The betting odds.

You cannot bet legally on political races in the United States, but in Britain and elsewhere there is a thriving market as bettors look to make money on whether Candidate A or Candidate B wins a big race.

Many, many bettors are following the race for the presidency between Donald Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. They are consuming a wide variety of data, and their collective wisdom, as reflected in where they put their money, can move the betting lines quickly. As a result, betting odds can be a canary in a coal mine, catching on to a surge by one candidate before some pundits even notice.

On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, political bettors, at least those in jurisdictions where they could bet legally, went on a wild ride.

Events were moving quickly. “The markets were twitching constantly,” Watt said. By 10 p.m., Trump was the favorite, with a 56 percent chance of winning. By 11, he was up to 69 percent.

Those odds are based on the best prices available. But, of course, some bookmakers vary in one direction or another, based in part on the bets they have accepted. The rush to Trump was so great that at one point a few bookies were offering odds as long as 6-1 or 7-1 to Biden bettors, meaning their $1 bet would return $6 or $7. The odds implied that Trump had as much as an 85 percent chance of winning.

After midnight, bettors seemed to have settled that Trump’s re-election was at least more likely than not.

But overnight, things shifted back to Biden. “He saw some success in the likes of Georgia, which was definitely a surprise, and Arizona,” Watt said. “By 5:30 a.m., Biden was reinstalled as the front-runner.”

And though Election Day is over, betting will continue until it is clear who won, however long that takes. As of early Wednesday morning, betting markets had Trump around 25 to 30 percent to win. A bit lower than 24 hours before, but still a significant chance.

While many voters have strong passions about their candidate, bettors who want to maximize their return have to leave those opinions aside and bet with their heads, not their hearts. A wise wagerer who bet on Trump when he was a 3-1 underdog, and also bet on Biden at 5-1 or more at his low point at 10 p.m. or so, will be looking at making some good money no matter who wins.


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