Election Betting Guide

Perhaps it’s the fact that voting machines look like slot machines, but betting on presidential election odds has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years. As a result, the election betting markets have expanded for the gubernatorial election, midterm election, and general election betting. American voters and those who indulge in political betting online are forbidden from betting on political events as U.S. gambling laws do not allow it.

However, many of the best offshore sportsbooks have a wide array of political betting options and they are not merely relegated to political races but also ballot questions. The Supreme Court has recently overturned several landmark cases, one of which was the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) that removed the federal ban on sports betting, allowing states to determine for themselves whether or not they want retail and online sports betting.

Deadlines for ballot initiatives differ but if they do make it on the ballot and are controversial enough, you will likely see the offshore online sportsbooks offer one or more on their betting menu as to whether or not they will pass. Because poll times vary, these ballot initiatives are not official until all the polls are closed and the votes have been counted.

We will often see over/under betting on voter turnout in those years when there is a race for the executive branch at the state or federal level, as those tend to bring out hundreds of millions of people nationwide. A superior court will often oversee recounts should one be needed but until the races or ballot questions are declared official no payouts on political wagers will be forthcoming. Interestingly enough, financial markets ebb and flow on election results which can cause stocks to rise and fall.

The Best Sportsbooks to Bet On Elections in 2023

How Election Betting Works

Election betting and political betting are identical to sports betting except for the subject matter, of course. The moneyline is the most common way these prop bets are offered and it simply involves a favorite and an underdog; the most common option for election moneylines is wagering on the presidential candidate. When betting on the favorite, the bettor must risk more than they can profit while the reverse is true for underdog bettors.

Below is an example of political betting:

  • Candidate A -150
  • Candidate B +130

In the example above, the election market shows Candidate A as the favorite where a bettor must risk $150 to win $100, or Candidate B as the underdog where the bettor must risk $100 to win $130. Any denomination is accepted within a sportsbook’s minimum and maximum betting limits exactly like other online betting markets, like sports.

How to Bet on Election Lines

Many online sports betting sites outside of the United States offer political betting markets that include who will win the popular vote, congressional races, gubernatorial races, props on electoral votes, ballot measures and more.

Offshore gambling companies are a great choice for when you want the comfort and convenience of mobile sports wagering; there are plenty of sites that offer a generous selection of political betting online like BetOnline, Bookmaker, Bovada, and Heritage Sports.

Although the sports betting market dwarfs any political betting website, it is now possible to have the best of both worlds under one roof. The sportsbooks above have carved a niche for themselves by offering an extensive political betting market in addition to their vast sports betting menu. Now, you can find the presidential election odds right alongside the Super Bowl odds.

How to Read Election Betting Odds & Lines

Whether a sportsbook is offering odds on a political race or a ballot question, moneyline odds are the most common way to express this kind of wager. As for the ballot questions, the ballot language is boiled down to whether or not that initiative will receive more yes or no votes.

  • Yes: -140
  • No: +120

As in the example previously discussed, this is a moneyline and it is based on a $100 bet with the bettor risking $140 to win $100 on Yes or risking $100 to win $120 on No. A moneyline is also used for senate election betting odds or any other political race.

Poll times will dictate when all voting begins and ends which signals the beginning of the votes being counted. The number of combined votes will also reveal the voter turnout which is another political prop bet often offered where the bettor can go over or under a certain number of voters casting their votes.

How Odds are Decided for Election Betting

Just like betting odds for anything else, the oddsmakers’ job in releasing opening political betting odds is part art and part science. The oddsmakers must be aware of the political betting market entering an election so they do not set what can be considered a weak line.

The online voter registration system allows easy and convenient voter registration and reveals the parties that are chosen by the voters, as they are considered public record. This information allows the oddsmakers to craft their odds based on which candidate’s party is most widely represented in their state or congressional district, as many citizens vote strictly on party lines.

But political races are not the only odds an oddsmaker must set as there are deadlines for ballot initiatives that must be considered as those questions may be on the ballot. If so, the oddsmaker must take the political temperature of these measures and set a line based on that perception.

Oddsmakers must also be aware of poll times in the state in which the question is being voted on and understand when those polls close, when the votes are counted, and when the official results are declared so the bettors who won can get their accounts credited in a timely manner.

Election Betting Strategies

They say the more you know the better off you are and that axiom can be applied to political betting as well. However, politics can be emotional for many and it is of vital importance that you separate your political persuasions from your political betting decisions. Everything from a candidate’s war chest to poll times, to public approval ratings are vital in determining which candidate to bet on.

Many are unable to do that and if that applies to you then tread lightly in the political betting arena. Political events will often reveal attendance figures and that is an excellent way to determine a candidate’s grassroots support.

Furthermore, it is important to keep track to see if the attendance records are increasing or diminishing as the election draws closer. If it is the former then the candidate could be picking up steam but if it is the latter then it could be signaling dwindling support. Prediction markets can be helpful in this regard but should not be considered the absolute answer.

The original deadline and final deadlines for ballot initiatives can also indicate if a ballot measure has enough support to get it across the finish line. If an initiative is granted an extended deadline to get on the ballot, then it could be a sign that the time is not right for this measure to pass. In that case, we suggest an alternative approach, bet No and keep your political leanings out of your betting process. Your own political opinions can be the biggest obstacle in the way of political betting success. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Election Betting

How often have betting odds predicted a presidential election?

Betting markets have been a strong indicator of the presidential election because the sample size is much bigger in a betting pool than in an election pool. Secondly, bettors have money at stake and are betting on who they believe will win and not who they want to win.

What do election betting odds mean?

Presidential election odds or midterm election odds essentially offer two candidates, the one more likely to win is designated as the favorite with a minus sign before the number while the one less likely to win is designated as the underdog with a plus sign before the number.

What kind of political betting markets are available to bet on?

The main political betting markets will revolve around senatorial, congressional, presidential, and gubernatorial election wagering. Ballot questions are also often part of the political betting menu on any of the major offshore sportsbooks.

How much money is made betting on political races?

Tens of millions of dollars are won and lost in political races. Poll times indicate when the voting can commence on election day and when they end. Once that process occurs, the votes are tallied, and a winner is declared.

Why is political betting important?

Political betting is important because it demonstrates an interest in the most critical role citizens play in the direction of their country. Gambling laws in the United States prevent American voters from betting on their own elections; however, offshore sportsbooks are under no such jurisdictional shackles.