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West Virginia election betting

Sports betting has been nearly non-existent in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, as professional and collegiate sports leagues have shut down. For less than an hour on Tuesday, though, gamblers in West Virginia were able to bet on this fall’s presidential election. In an odd day, FanDuel launched election betting, only to take it down 40 minutes later.

FanDuel was able to post bets for a short time because the West Virginia Lottery approved political wagering. Shortly thereafter, that approval was withdrawn, as were the betting lines.

“….while the markets were approved, the West Virginia Lottery has asked FanDuel to refrain from offering the markets until they have time to fully work through the implications of this new market offering,” FanDuel said.

FanDuel had set Donald Trump as a slight favorite to win the presidential election, establishing an opening line of -110. Joe Biden was +125. The company refunded its customers’ wagers.

Approval took Governor by surprise

Making things even stranger is that top West Virginia officials had no idea that the Lottery had approved political wagering.

“I thought, you know, are you kidding me? The first thing that came to my mind was, you know, what next?” said Governor Jim Justice on Wednesday. “It’s humorous, but it’s ridiculous.”

In a statement, Secretary of State Mac Warner was blunt in his evaluation of the situation:

“Gambling on elections has been illegal in West Virginia since 1868. Gambling on the outcome of an election has no place in our American democracy. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. This is a terrible idea. Let’s shut this down right now and be very clear about it.

There are outlets for election wagering

Political betting does exist elsewhere in the world. European-based sportsbooks offer odds on not only who will win the U.S. presidential election, but also on who the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee will be, who will win the popular vote, and more.

Americans are also able to place their bets on a site called PredictIt. PredictIt does things differently. Rather than posting odds and taking wagers from customers, the site has set up a betting market like a stock market. Gamblers can buy shares in an outcome for anywhere from $0.01 to $0.99. If that outcome ends up happening, those who own shares sell them back for $1 each. Shares can also be sold at any time before the outcome is decided.

Donald Trump’s share price is currently $0.51, while Joe Biden is at $0.45. Those prices can fluctuate depending on the confidence of the market.

Legendary oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said in September that there is a huge appetite for political betting in the U.S. and abroad. He has been setting lines on the election for “entertainment purposes,” but believes loads of money can be made from real-money betting.

For now, West Virginia election betting will continue to be put on hold.

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