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There is a particular subset of “entertainment betting” that has been gaining quite a bit of momentum as of late: political betting, which has seen a rise in popularity over the past several electoral cycles. Given what’s transpired in America the last few years, it is not exactly surprising that bettors would take an increased interest in politically-charged prop bets.

Is Betting on Politics Legal in the United States?

Gambling on political outcomes in the United States used to be considered an illegal activity, under federal and most state laws. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA); the Federal Wire Act; and, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act all stood in the way of you, the potential bettor, wagering any real money on the next round of presidential hopefuls.

In short, these laws combined used to prohibit both online and offline, USA-based sports betting, in all states save for Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon.

However, in May of 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court shut down PASPA, ruling the federal restriction of legalized sports betting unconstitutional. Legalization and legislation is now determined at a state level, meaning it will be up to each individual state to decide whether or not to allow its residents to engage in sports betting, including political events.

Not sure which states have made sports betting legal? We’ve got a handy U.S. sports betting legalization map tracking all significant changes being made in state laws.

 

House of cards. (bhavya999 (flickr [CC License]))

Types of Political Betting

There’s two main ways to bet on politics: prediction markets and online sprotsbooks. Learn more about each of them below.

1. Prediction Markets

Prediction markets pose “yes” or “no” questions to traders, such as:

  • Will Donald Trump be re-elected as President of the United States in 2020?
  • Will Sen. Cory Booker announce his candidacy for presidency?
  • Will Michelle Obama become the first female president in 2020?

Traders can then buy “yes” or “no” shares on each question, their prices depending on supply and demand, just as in the stock market. If your predicted outcome happens, the futures market will pay 100 cents on the dollar, and zero if it does not.

Interestingly, predictive markets were even allowed prior to the ruling on PASPA, for the valuable insight they provided. As traders buy and sell their shares, researchers get a better idea at what the collective mind is thinking about candidates and the events surrounding them. The idea is that people are buying shares based on what they truly believe is going to happen, not just what they want to happen. These markets provide real-time insight into political campaigns, and how different events impact them.

2. Online Bets

Political props will look much the same as the sports and entertainment props you may be used to seeing. It’s easy to bet on politics at an online sportsbook, but Bovada and BetOnline are reputed for the breadth of political lines they offer.

Some of the most common betting lines you can expect to see are:

Odds to Win the 2020 Republican/Democratic Presidential Primary

This type of betting line allows you to pick who you think will win the nominations for the 2020 presidential election for each party. Betting early on this prop means more options will be on the table in terms of candidates. That obviously makes it harder to pick the right one, but also means the potential payout will be larger. Also, keep in mind that betting early means that the money you wager will be tied up until the outcome is decided.

Odds to Win the 2020 Presidential Election

As the name suggests, this betting line concerns the overall winner of the 2020 election. Most sportsbooks will list individual candidates, but may also have spin-off props like:

  • Odds on which party will win the 2020 Presidential Election
  • Odds on the gender of the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election

 Odds to Win the Popular Vote

Betting lines on the popular vote do not typically appear until one or two months out from the actual election date. Though the popular vote does not make a difference in the actual election results, there is generally a lot of talk surrounding who wins.

Odds to Win a Specific State

You can expect betting lines to win key swing states to start surfacing early on in electoral races. Winning a swing state can make or break a campaign for candidates, so this type of line can be a particularly exciting one to bet on.

Odds on Candidate Antics

Many sportsbooks will also offer interesting prop on individual candidates doing certain things; this past cycle, you could find odds on how many times now-President Trump would say a certain phrase during a debate.

Getting Started

If you’ve never placed a bet before, we’ve got a helpful guide to getting started over here. The process is not nearly as intimidating as all the numbers and symbols make it appear, and if politics is something that you are already interested in, you may find political betting to be an exciting (and potentially lucrative) way to put all that prowess and knowledge to work.

It is good to note that while politics are a part of our everyday life, generally speaking, sportsbooks won’t offer many betting lines until an electoral campaign has, or is about to, begin. That being said, you may find yourself coming across the odd Donald Trump prop bet here or there, considering how frequently the President finds himself in the news.

Keep in mind that while the technical side of betting may not differ much from sports to entertainment, to the political, the information behind each bet will. Informed wagers are the best kind of wagers, so do your research before putting any money on the line. Whether you decide to participate in prediction markets or go online to find some interesting prop bets, look into your options and remember to use your head, not just your heart.