Even though you can’t place political wagers at US-based sportsbooks, election betting is getting some serious PR in the American media today.
As of this writing, one of the top stories on the new (and, it must be noted, Drudgeless) Drudge Report is about the betting odds on the 2020 Presidential election.
The news aggregator’s hyperbolic all-caps link looks like this:
BETTING MARKET SHOWS BIG UNDERDOG
President Trump, of course, is that “BIG UNDERDOG.”
However, if you follow the link, you won’t actually be taken to a legitimate Vegas betting site.
Instead, you’ll be taken to PredictIt, which is – as its name implies – a prediction market.
These prediction markets are largely used as polling services, though PredictIt is unique in that it has a “trading” option where users can sign up and “buy shares” of a given candidate.
There is a very low limit of how many shares any given participant can buy, and to give you an example of how it works, we’ll use today’s big news that Trump is a “BIG UNDERDOG.”
Who will win the 2020 US Presidential election?
- Joe Biden: 59¢
- Donald Trump 44¢
These, obviously, aren’t betting lines, and they don’t work the same way.
First off, PredictIt is an exchange, not a house-banked book. Think of it more like a pari-mutuel horse betting book rather than a traditional sportsbook.
What the above means, in practice, is this:
Today, if you want to “buy a share” of Joe Biden – i.e. if you think Biden is going to win in November – you will pay 59¢ per share. Then, if Biden wins, you will get the entire dollar for that share. Similarly, if you buy a share of Trump at 44¢, you will win a dollar if he wins the election.
Converting these to traditional betting lines, using the current numbers, $100 would get your 169.5 shares of Uncle Joe. If Biden wins, your $100 “bet” would earn you a $165.50 payout, less your $100 investment (and PredictIt’s commission).
This means that in traditional betting terms, Biden odds are trending at -153 or so. Meanwhile, $100 on Trump at 44¢ would come out to 227.3 shares, or $127.30 in profits if he wins. This translates to about +127 in Trump betting odds.
Thus, if PredictIt were an actual sportsbook, the lines would look like this:
- Joe Biden -153
- Donald Trump +127
Joe Biden, at PredictIt, is indeed a heavy favorite.
Of course, at real online election betting sites like Bovada, BetOnline, and MyBookie – which have loads more action and much more money at stake for bettors – the betting odds tell a different tale:
- Joe Biden -115
- Donald Trump -105
- Donald Trump -120
- Joe Biden +100
- Donald Trump -130
- Joe Biden +100
As you can see, the news media (#FakeNews media?) is cherry-picking their political betting lines by going with a non-sportsbook to paint the picture of Trump being a “BIG UNDERDOG.”
In reality, of course, Orange Man Bad is favored by a significant margin at two of the top Vegas election betting sites, and he is trailing by only 10 points at Bovada (where, just a few days ago, he was actually tied with Basement Joe).
All in all, PredictIt is not the best site to get legitimate betting odds – and legitimate betting data – for the 2020 Presidential election. It’s a fun exchange for people who want to put a few bucks on political outcomes, and it offers some value as a polling tool. But that’s all.
If you want to see what the actual lines are on the upcoming general in November, you need to check out actual online sportsbooks that actually offer comprehensive betting odds on the big race.
You better believe the Trump and Biden campaigns are.