(Nov. 17, 2020)--Americans were not the only people who endured the seemingly interminable wait for the outcome of the 2020 presidential election to be announced. Not only were the supporters of the two candidates, incumbent Donald Trump, and challenger Joe Biden on tenterhooks, but also the thousands of people from around the world who had a bet on the winner.
One man in the UK even bet £1 million on Biden to win at 8/15, the largest political bet in the history of Betfair Exchange. Others online casinos and betting sites reported a surge in interest, even amongst players who normally would have no interest in politics.
Ironically, the one country, with a few exceptions, where people are not supposed to bet on the outcome of the US elections are the US itself. That is not to say that it does not go on though. The country has a long history of illegal betting markets dating back to before the Second World War, and concentrated in cities like New York, Chicago, and Baltimore.
However, the 2020 presidential election seems to have captured the imagination like few events before them. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the total amount of bets placed exceeded £400 million, which is more than double that was placed on the outcome of the Trump-Hilary Clinton race in 2016.
And the amounted wagered is more than was placed on the top dour sporting events combined on the Betfair Exchange – the boxing match in 2017 between Floyd Mayweather Junior, and Conor McGregor, the 2018 World Cup, the 2019 Grand National steeple race , and this year’s Super Bowl.
Certainly, no British vote has ever attracted this level of interest – the amount wagered on the 2016 Brexit vote was less than a third of that recent total at £113 million.
One area where the bookmakers did get things right was in predicting that the race would be tight. The national polls had all consistently forecast a clear Biden victory, whereas the bookies had always suggested that the race would be much closer than that. And so, it proved, particularly when it seemed at one stage that President Trump might pull off another upset like he did four years ago.
Biden, unless Trump succeeds in all the legislative challenges that he has lodged with various courts at state and federal level, will be the next President of the United States. However, political pollsters definitely have something to learn from the techniques and the algorithms that the major betting companies use to calculate their odds.
As to why so much money has been placed this time round, some of it must be due to the nature of Donald Trump himself, who has proved to be a deeply polarising figure. Whilst widely disliked by the liberal left and centre, he managed to attract 70 million Americans to vote for him showing his popularity amongst his base.
The fact that it took a record turnout amongst Biden supporters to defeat him shows that his policies had alienated so many people that even the normally apathetic were prompted to involve themselves in the electoral process this time.
And it would be wrong to ignore the ever-present issue of the global pandemic. 2020 has seen online gambling surge, in part due to lockdowns and people wanting to find new distractions. All forms of online betting casinos, like games of chance and probability are reporting record numbers of players, and an increase in bets on the US elections is in line with that trend.