An interesting thing happened on the way to the sportsbook.
This week, mainstream news outlets started reporting that Vegas sportsbooks were offering odds on Joe Biden’s Vice President selection. California Senator Kamala Harris was listed as the front runner in a crowded field.
Linked by the Drudge Report, which is the largest news aggregation service in the world, was this piece from McClatchy DC, penned by Charles Duncan. The headline reads as follows:
“Who will Joe Biden pick as his running mate? Here’s what Vegas betting odds show”
“While pundits are discussing the options, bookmakers in Las Vegas are setting betting lines for who Biden will pick. Sites listing the odds agree that Sen. Kamala Harris is the favorite. …
Popular betting site Bovada puts Harris as the favorite with +200 odds. She’s followed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar at +300 and Whitmer at +500. The odds are lower for Warren at +700 and Abrams at +1,000.”
There are two lies and a truth here.
First, there are no Vegas odds on elections or politics. None.
In fact, no state in America that has legalized sports betting allows for political wagering of any kind. While there are no federal restrictions on the activity, individual states have unanimously and unambiguously barred domestic gambling operators from offering election odds.
This reality itself made national news just a week or so before the McClatchy story, when FanDuel momentarily offered presidential election odds through its online Greenbrier sportsbook service in West Virginia.
Those odds came down within 15 minutes, with WV Secretary of State Mac Warner rightly pointing out that “[g]ambling on elections has been illegal in West Virginia since 1868.”
Secondly, Bovada – which is one of the best betting sites in the world and boasts millions of US members (and is our choice for political wagering and sports betting in general) – is not a “bookmaker in Las Vegas.”
Bovada isn’t based in Nevada, nor is it based in the US at all. The site operates out of Costa Rica under the umbrella of the international Bodog brand. And what’s more, Nevada residents can’t even sign up at the site!
The only bit of truth in Duncan’s report is that Kamala Harris is indeed the favorite on the VP odds boards there, as she is at other offshore betting sites like MyBookie and BetOnline.
Duncan also cites various UK-based betting shops in his story on “Las Vegas” bookies, where Harris is also leading. Of course, US bettors cannot wager at UK-licensed bookmakers operating domestically in their countries of origin.
This confusion is understandable. People are looking for Vegas election odds now more than ever, thanks to the spread of coronavirus causing a near-global shutdown on all the sports – and thus the sports betting markets – that fuel Sin City and gambling districts the world over.
You will notice, for example, that this very site is called Vegas Election Odds.
However, the reason this site exists is to clarify the lack of this market in Las Vegas and direct confused potential gamblers to those venues where they can safely and legally bet on the election odds they’re looking for.
The other reason for this confusion – aside from misleading stories like Duncan’s – is that Vegas itself has a tendency to go all in on advertising “Vegas odds” on candidates during major election cycles.
But these are strictly used for advertising purposes, hooking unwitting bettors to sportsbooks that merely offer traditional athletic wagering options. Yawn.
Bookmakers in NV put out such lines as mere gimmicks, with the disclaimer that they’re “hypothetical.” And yes, they largely take their lines from offshore bookmakers, since they don’t have measured action to draw from to provide accurate odds of their own. That’s why Duncan’s odds came from Bovada, which is the world leader in this particular betting market.
Naturally, the upshot is that Bovada – and online election betting sites like it – are being legitimized more than ever through this mainstream reportage.
While Bovada’s been in business for nearly a decade, it’s only lately that so many American bettors are realizing that offshore services are not only trustworthy, but that they are actually industry leaders with far more wagering options than domestic US books can offer.
Bovada, to its credit, has never missed a single payout in its history, and though many people are cautious about the legal offshore gambling market in general, this new prevalence – and its admitted alignment with Vegas in the public mind – is a major stamp of approval for these operators.
If you ever thought that offshore election betting, sports betting, and casinos were less than honest or existed in some risky black market or gray area, the national news media just proved that not only are these books reputable and renowned, but Vegas itself literally piggybacks on their odds and offerings.
And you know what they say: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
It is unclear if US-based sportsbooks will ever allow election betting or political props, but until they do, you will be able to wager on elections, impeachment odds, and more, safely and conveniently over the Internet.
That’s why we’re here to set the record straight. After all, a bet on a politician is probably more profitable than a vote for that politician, and offshore is the only game in town.
Remember: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But election betting never happens in Vegas.