Likely to the delight of current US President Donald Trump, is news adding more fuel to the flames a full two weeks past the November 3 US Presidential election. Several sportsbooks still have not rendered official judgments on wagers.
Although Joe Biden has been declared President-elect by every major news network, the US Electoral College still must certify the results. Months before the election took place Trump warned of a rigged election and the likelihood of claiming foul while spreading misinformation. As result, the books are not settling bets yet, leaving bettors in confused limbo.
Being that it is illegal for an American sportsbook to accept wagers on a US election, these type of wagers are confined to unregulated online sites and foreign-based operations. Betfair, a large gambling company based in London, owes $600 million to its bettors assuming Biden takes the office in January, according to a recent account published in The New York Post.
Adam Burns, the sportsbook manager for BetOnline told the NY Post that the election was one of the most heavily bet-on events of the year:
The presidential election was bigger than the Super Bowl. We kept taking action, with fluctuating odds for a few days after the election. But now the bet is no longer available and we’re hoping for an official decision.
Burns is saying the company will reserve a decision until Trump exhausts all legal options. “People who bet Trump say it is not over. People who bet Biden say it is. This makes for a tricky situation where we must be sure. It’s not like a football game” in terms of there being a clear-cut victor, Burns said.
“I thought I would be done with this election by now,” says Pat Morrow, an oddsmaker at Bovada, a large offshore sportsbook based in Antigua. “God help me, I think I have the news on more now than I did during election day.” Morrow says he has been working for two weeks straight as bettors continue to place wagers.
What started as a casual novelty turned into serious business for Bovada. Remarkably, it became the site’s single largest event in their company’s wagering history. By confirming Biden’s victory officially, Morrow said it will become Bovada’s largest single-event win. Conversely, should Trump somehow win his appeal, it will equate to their largest loss.
Pat Morrow says:
This is horrible for us. We want people to get paid out and going off to bet football. But due to the size of the handle, we cannot. If we pay out on Biden early and somehow, some way Trump wins, and we have to pay out again that would be a quarter of our yearly revenue.
BetOnline, another unlicensed operation based in Panama is also waiting for conclusive judgment before paying out customers either way. “This has been a year of twists, turns, and unknowns, so we don’t want to prematurely grade a wager that could result in a different outcome down the road,” says Dave Mason, BetOnline’s sportsbook manager. “However, we fully anticipate that we will grade Joe Biden as the winner soon.”
One interesting outcome is publicity this issue has received focusing upon the amount of money US bettors have poured into illegal markets satisfying their interest in politics. The question will again surface “should politics be legalized for US states as a wagering option” to retain both potential tax money plus revenue opportunity?
The answer will have to be debated state by state and likely also fall upon federal regulatory guidelines. It also opens discussion upon wagering for new categories that fall outside of sports wagering. Those include proposition wagering bets, a.k.a. “props” that offshore and unlicensed sportsbooks freely post within their individual choice.
One issue remains unanimously hopeful…that the world will never again see such a contested US political election with an unsettled outcome so many days past its announced conclusion.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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