You can bet on Cy Young Award winners, how long it will take a musician to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl and who will receive the first technical foul of the NBA finals. But U.S. presidential elections? One Nevada lawmaker has submitted legislation to remove the state’s ban on betting on federal elections. If passed, some experts are predicting that betting on presidential contests “would be bigger than the Super Bowl.”
Betting has evolved from placing a dime on a winner or loser to putting down $1,000 on who will cry first at a major sporting event. And that could transition into the political arena in the future.
The 2020 presidential election is still a long way off, but odds-on favorites to win a seat in the Oval Office have been released, notes Newsweek. President Donald Trump is first on the list, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Vice President Mike Pence, Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Sorry, Hollywood, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kim Kardashian dwell in the bottom.
In the gambling community, betting on non-sporting events has become a massive industry. It is estimated that sports betting accounts for just 2% of the win total in Nevada casinos. In two years, when state legislators look at a bill that aims to lift the ban on election betting, another niche could be ignited.
According to the Los Angeles Times, State Senator Tick Sergeblom (D-LV), introduced legislation in 2015 that attempted to eliminate a law that prohibits betting on federal elections. The bill did not go anywhere at first glance, but the state lawmaker will reintroduce the measure when the Legislature convenes in 2019.
The state senator says overseas betting on the U.S. presidential election is big business. Should Nevada permit bettors to place a wager on a President Trump vs. Chelsea Clinton election, it would be bigger than the Super Bowl, which generates billions of dollars in legal and illegal betting every year:
Photos taken at Las Vegas.
It’s good for Nevada, the betting capital of the world. We have to offer what we can now. Soon every state is going to have betting, and we need to be in front of that. It’s a rapidly expanding industry.
The bill would further allow gamblers to wager on other non-sporting events, like the Academy Awards, “American Idol” and reality television.
Essentially, Nevada casinos can expand their portfolios beyond on-field games. They can also take advantage of the vast amounts of money involved. Right before the U.S. election in November, approximately $130 million was wagered in Europe on who will be the next U.S. president – all of the betting markets got it just as wrong as the media. If Nevada adopted the same model, state coffers could receive a boost every election cycle.
Critics and gaming regulators are apprehensive of permitting such a trend, arguing that the chances could impact voter turnout if the odds veer in the direction of a particular candidate. Proponents say that can already occur because of opinion polling data.
When it comes to reality TV, some believe that since reality shows are recorded in advance, leaks could come out and affect the bets. Many foreign gambling houses have rectified this situation by cutting off bets quite sometime before outcomes are revealed.
Jay Kornegay, Westgate’s vice president of race and sports book operations, told the newspaper that transparency is the biggest factor in getting regulators to approve of non-sporting bets:
I think our first goal is to make sure we protect both sides of the counter — the customer and the book — as well as the event.
It is likely that Nevada casinos would adopt several safety measures, including halting betting well before voting starts and placing caps on how much customers can bet.
There are two other important considerations to think about. First, would voters bet against their preferred candidate? Second, would politicians bet against themselves?
In October 2016, The New York Times asked:
Let’s say you are offered two options: You can receive $10 if Mrs. Clinton wins, or $90 if Mr. Trump wins. Which option would you choose — the one that paid out if your candidate won, or the won that paid if your candidate lost? And why would you make this choice?
The newspaper then cited a voter who bet $50 against former Secretary of State John Kerry in the 2004 election, even though he was a major supporter of the Democratic nominee.
But what about politicians and members of government betting against themselves or their party? It has happened before.
The Sun-Herald reported in 2010 that senior figures from the Australian Labor Party had bet on the outcome of the federal election, and many of these officials bet against their party. These included parliamentary staffers, advisers, and senior party officials.
The Silver State collects just under $1 billion every year from casinos’ gambling revenues. That could significantly balloon if presidential election betting were acceptable. With Nevada facing a budget deficit and $25 billion worth of public debt, it may be about time the state took a gamble on election betting.