Political betting odds are not solely available just for the major elections. Whenever any US politician for either the Republicans or Democrats (or any third party) runs for office, delivers a speech, participates in a debate, or attempts to pass a bill or mandate, oddsmakers waste no time posting a variety of betting odds surrounding these events. Odds also emerge for political outcomes such as government shutdowns and scandals and the like.
Betting on these kinds of events is growing tremendously in popularity, providing great opportunities for those who follow politics and want to have (even more) skin in the game. And while Presidential election cycles and midterms generally garner the most betting action, more and more offshore sportsbooks are starting to offer year-round odds, even in political “off-seasons.”
With things reaching a fever pitch in anticipation of the 2020 Presidential election, the contentious primary season and various global issues permeating the mainstream media are perfect fodder for sportsbooks to ramp up their offerings. Below, you’ll find our recommended election betting sites, legal information on the political betting market, and a guide on how to wager on politics in the United States.
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Here, we’ve got the major political betting lines for the current election season. However, reputable online sportsbooks offer far more odds than those listed below, and we cover these in the requisite sections on this site.
Consider the following lines a taste of better things to come. And since we’re not politicians, you can trust that we’re telling you the truth! The following odds are from Bovada:
US Presidential Election 2020 – Odds To Win
US Presidential Election 2020 – Democratic Candidate
US Presidential Election 2020 – Winning Party
Which Party Will Win The Popular Vote In The 2020 Presidential Election?
Betting on elections and politics is simple enough if you’re already familiar with sports betting because the format is largely the same. However, this guide is for those that have never bet on sports or politics before, as we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of the process from the ground up.
Political betting is legal for US residents in most states, but it is unavailable domestically. This is not so much due to any explicit laws against the practice (though a handful of states do specifically bar betting on elections), it’s just that for years, Nevada’s Gaming Control Board has set the standard for sportsbooks, and most states that have legalized sports betting follow that Las Vegas model.
It is conceivable that you’ll be able to wager on politics at local brick-and-mortar and domestic Internet books in the future, but for now, the only safe, legal way to do so is to use an offshore sportsbook like those reputable brands listed here. There are no federal US laws that prevent you from placing real money bets at offshore books, and the best operators all do business under license and regulation of their own home countries.
In two US states – Washington and Connecticut – it is nominally unlawful to gamble over the Internet. However, all top betting sites accept WA and CT residents, and we’ve never heard of any of them getting fined or arrested for signing up and wagering on political events. Still, you are advised to follow all local laws when gambling online.
Since betting on political outcomes is only possible online via offshore sportsbooks, you’ll need to sign up for one or more such services. Fortunately, the process is simple, free, and safe, and it only takes a few minutes. Just follow these steps, and you can bet on the next petty, egotistical tyrant to hold public office:
Before you wager on political betting lines or Presidential election odds, you need to know what the moneyline – or the bet “price tag” –implies. That’s easy enough, and once you learn the basics, you’ll understand all the numbers on every betting site’s boards.
In short, each political prop bet will have a number attached to every potential outcome. If the bet is binary (i.e. if there are only two choices), the “favorite” will be a negative number, while the “underdog” will be a positive number (or a negative number closer to +100/EVEN odds).
A negative number indicates how much money must be wagered to win $100, while a positive number indicates how much can be won on a $100 bet. These are ratios, not minimums, as most sites will accept bets of as little as $1.00.
In the case of wagers that have multiple possible outcomes – i.e. more than two options – the favorite will sometimes have a positive moneyline, though this will be the smallest positive number of the bunch.
Spread Bets – Political spreads are wagers where one side of the bet is handicapped. This is important because otherwise, the presumed winner would garner too much action. A sportsbook’s goal is to balance the money on both sides of a spread and “take the middle” (aka the “vigorish” or “juice”). While political spreads are the rarest kinds of wagers in the market, when you come across one, it may look something like the following:
Vermont Primary Election – Popular Vote
Here, you are wagering on how many votes Bernie will win his home state’s primary by. Because he’s such a heavy favorite to win outright, the hypothetical sportsbook is giving Biden a 7500-vote head start. In order to win the bet, Bernie must beat Biden by 7501 votes, whereas Biden can win as long as he finishes closer than 7500 votes to Sanders. If Sanders wins by exactly 7500 votes, the result would be a “push” and all action would be refunded. The moneyline is in parentheses and shows that on both sides of the spread, a $110 wager nets $100 in winnings.
Straight Bets – Political straight bets, or “straight moneyline” bets, are wagers where you simply pick a winning side. Straights can be head-to-head bets, group bets (like picking the winner among a field of nominees), and the like. For example:
Odds To Win 2020 Indiana Primary Election
In the above, Mayor Pete is favored to win in his home state of Indiana. However, Bernie Sanders is right behind him. Because straight wagers are defined by their moneylines, those moneylines determine both the favorite/underdog status of the candidates and the payouts associated with their wins. If you bet $145 on Buttigieg and he wins, you’d get $100 in winnings. Meanwhile, a $100 bet on Sanders would pay out $115.
Totals Bets – Totals, also known as over/under or O/U bets, are commonly available on political odds boards. You see these mainly in the form of props (more on that below), usually during debates. An example of a common over/under from the 2020 election cycle follows:
How many times will the debate candidates mention “Russia”?
If during the debate in question, candidates say “Russia” 7 or more times, the over would win, while if they say it 6 or fewer times, the under would win. Both sides of the bet above carry -115 odds ($115 wagered to win $100), but books can offer different moneylines on either side at their discretion.
Prop Bets – Political props are the primary category in the election betting market, and we discuss these in depth on our Political Prop Betting page. However, in short, political props are wagers about anything and everything not specifically related to the outcome of an election.
You can wager on things like how many times Trump will tweet during a debate or a big sporting event, who the current administration will fire next, which countries will declare war against the US, and so on. There is no limit to the kinds of props available, and the news cycle is largely responsible for feeding the hype for these kinds of bets.
Futures Bets – Futures are essentially long-term props. All throughout the election cycle, the main political futures of import have been the odds on which candidate will win their party nomination and which candidate will win the Presidential election. An example of that is this:
Winner Of The 2020 Presidential Election
Specials Bets – Specials, which you’ll usually find as “Election Specials” at most sportsbooks, are typically those weird and wacky wagers that don’t quite fit in with the other categories. Sometimes, political specials are too “out there” for inclusion in the above, and most gamblers are drawn to these for the sheer fun factor.
Each sportsbook will offer its own unique take on election specials, so you’ll definitely want to check out several competing services to find the most entertaining wagers.
Parlay Bets – Parlays aren’t so much a bet type as they are a way to increase your payout by combining wagers onto a single ticket. All the best election betting sites allow you to place parlay bets. Simply put, if you combine two or more wagers onto a single betting slip, this is a parlay, and all the bets (or “legs”) must be winners for the ticket to be a winner. Greater risk, greater reward!
It’s 2020, and that doesn’t just mean there’s a huge election on the horizon – It also means that people are firmly entrenched in the mobile revolution. As a result, all the top election oddsmakers offer their lines in mobile-friendly formats through web apps.
While there aren’t traditional iPhone apps or Android apps for these sites on the App Store or in Google Play, outlets like Bovada, BetOnline, and MyBookie all have smartphone- and tablet-optimized mobile portals, allowing you to quickly wager on politics, no matter where you are. Mobile betting also has the benefit of not being geofenced, so you can bet from anywhere in the US!
Live betting is hugely popular in the sports betting marketplace, but there isn’t much call for it in the election realm. While you may find some “in-game” betting on election night in November as state-by-state results come pouring in over the airwaves, most books are unlikely to offer these. However, as more bettors turn to political wagering, that could change in the future, with sportsbooks developing algorithms to adjust betting odds on the fly.
Shopping lines is an important strategy for all bettors, whether you’re new to the pastime or an old veteran. Most pros and regular gamblers agree that line shopping – or looking at odds for similar bets across multiple sites – is the best, the easiest edge you can get when betting on politics.
If one book has the incumbent at -145 odds to win while another has him or her at -115 odds, you’d be silly to take the former and leave all that money on the table. By joining multiple offshore betting sites, you can easily and quickly shop lines to maximize your potential winnings.
At all the top election betting outlets, you will find a mix of the following political lines and odds. Of course, many of these won’t be available all the time, as their inclusion depends on the types of elections on hand and the political calendar and news cycle in question.
When is the best time to bet on politics?
You can wager on politics pretty much all year long, but the best time to place your bets depends on what type of bet you’re placing. If you’re interested in futures bets on the winner of the Presidential election, for example, you’ll want to get those picks in early, because the odds are going to be better for the candidate of your choice the further out from the election they are.
Generally speaking, the earlier you bet, the more you stand to make. Once candidates get narrowed down, odds shrink, and payouts are less robust. For things like debates, of course, you’ll only be able to wager in the last day or two before the event, so that’s the time to pull the lever.
How does betting on politics differ from sports betting?
The biggest difference between sports betting and political betting is that the majority of political odds (excluding election futures) are available for only a couple days before a given event or deadline. This means that a flood of action can heavily influence the price of a line at any moment, shifting it enormously.
Odds on sports level out after the opening line, but political lines can swing at any moment, and swing big! Otherwise, structurally, these types of markets mirror each other fairly closely.
When do odds on politics become available?
Political odds can be found all year long, but the kinds of odds you’ll come across change depending on the proximity of debates, elections, news conferences, trials, and the like. Odds for a particular event will usually be posted just a day or two out from that event, with the exception of elections futures.
For example, Super Tuesday betting odds are only posted once the field of candidates is more or less finalized and the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries have established a pecking order.
Why can’t I bet on politics at local domestic sportsbooks?
Local domestic books don’t offer political betting, and most of them don’t even offer standard entertainment betting on things like reality shows, awards shows, and similar fare. There isn’t really any law stopping them from posting these lines, but Vegas tradition – and a desire on behalf of domestic books to stay in politicians’ good graces – typically means that you’re only going to find legal election odds at offshore betting sites.
Is it safe to bet on politics and elections?
If you do so at one of our recommended operators, absolutely! All the top betting sites in the offshore market use cutting-edge encryption standards (SSL, TLS), have strict policies against selling or sharing user data with third parties, accept Bitcoin and other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, and employ end-to-end encryption. That said, in order to maximize your safety, you’ll want to keep your computer or smartphone/tablet up to date with all security patches and major releases.
Is political betting ethical?
This is strictly personal, but we believe it is. Politics themselves are unequivocally unethical, but putting a little bit of extra cash in your pocket betting on circus clowns isn’t hurting anyone. Heck, with taxes being what they are, you might even be doing you and yours a definite service!
Of course, if you suffer with gambling addiction or wager more than you can afford to lose, politics or not, you need to reassess your priorities and seek the necessary help. Remember: If you’re not a professional, betting on politics is strictly for entertainment.
Do political betting odds affect elections?
Not directly. That said, there is no question that politicians’ campaigns pay attention to betting lines as much as they listen to polls, as odds boards are reflective of Americans putting their money where their mouths are and making picks they believe in. Some might even argue that betting lines are more apt and informational than most polls, but the jury’s still out on that.
Do political odds reflect polling numbers?
Most of the time, yes, because polling affects bettors’ picks (and possibly vice versa). But interestingly, you’ll find that betting lines and political polls sometimes don’t resemble one another to the same degree. For example, in 2016, most polls had Hillary Clinton easily defeating Donald Trump. But at betting sites, odds were much closer to even, indicating that bettors exhibit some degree of independence from the national narrative.
Are political odds a reliable way to predict election winners?
Again, yes and no. It really just depends. As gambling enthusiasts, we tend to believe that odds are at least as effective as polls at predicting election outcomes, but there are simply so many variables that it’s impossible to quantify exactly how valuable they are. As with the above example, in 2016, bettors had the race closer than pollsters did, but they still favored Clinton to win. Of course, she ended up losing bigly.
What are the election betting limits at offshore sportsbooks?
Because elections and politics are such fickle institutions that hang on the day-to-day shifts in public perception and mainstream trends, sportsbooks do not have the empirical data to draw from that they do for other more traditional sports like football or basketball.
As a result – and because election odds can shift on a dime – these books install relatively low betting limits for political wagers. Usually, you’ll find election betting limits of between $500 and $1000, though these may increase in the future as the market grows in maturity.
Additional Political Betting Resources