US elections betting was standard and legal practice for many years in the United States before scientific polling became part of mainstream politics in the mid-20th century.
Today, it’s illegal to place a wager on whether Donald Trump is going to win the GOP nomination or if Hillary Clinton is going to outlast her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders.
Americans can place money on nearly all professional sports leagues in Nevada, but Las Vegas believes the untapped US elections betting market is ripe for inclusion in its books.
“We’ve been saying for the past 30 years, what is wrong with it?” Jimmy Vaccaro, lead odds maker at the South Point Casino told CNN. “Why send all this money offshore or to illegal bookies when we can regulate it and tax it and everybody can make some money doing it properly?”
Sounds Like Poker
Casinos and politicians are currently engaged in what seems like an incessant discussion on which gambling formats should be legalized. Online poker can now be effectively regulated and taxed, yet only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have taken steps to decriminalize Internet gameplay.
The majority of gambling companies largely support online betting, less one rather notable individual being billionaire Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson.
Land-based gambling is legal in the vast majority of states, as is daily fantasy sports (DFS), the most controversial subject in the gaming community as operators like DraftKings and FanDuel are taking advantage of a legal technicality to provide customers with the ability to bet on sports-related events.
Traditional sports betting, permitted only in Nevada, is the act of gambling on a predetermined spread dictated by bookmakers. DFS differs in that it’s the act of betting on the performance of specific players, a practice that has been classified as skill over chance.
The skill component of DFS is largely controversial, especially considering poker requires much expertise, specifically for new players who are highly susceptible to sharks in their early real money days.
Hidden Talent, Hidden Advantages
Though not endorsed by Congress, lawmakers in DC have little recourse with present laws on the book to go after DFS operators.
If DFS is considered skill, should betting on elections and playing poker be deemed skillful endeavors, too?
During the 2012 presidential cycle, a web-based trading exchange called Intrade accepted millions of “trades” relating to political contests. The Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) successfully sued Intrade, leading to the site’s demise.
A new network called Augur has since launched, a decentralized prediction market that rewards users for correctly predicting future events. Augur hopes to become the Intrade of 2016, but before it caters to US-based customers, the company is seeking a “no action” letter from the CFTC.
If DFS can effectively defend that users selecting athletes based on statistics is a form of skill, it’s seemingly difficult to argue that reviewing polling data and political trends in predicting which candidate will win an election is not.
The other potential upside of allowing US elections betting is that it could help grow interest in American politics. DFS gives audiences additional reason to watch a game they’d otherwise tune out, and the same could hold true in the governmental arena.