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With sports shut down worldwide, sports betting world turns to politics

When professional and college sports leagues began shutting down and cancelling their seasons early last month, its sent shock waves across the sports betting world. With no actual sports being played, players would have a tough time finding something to actually bet on. But punters have a way of finding out where the action is, no matter what kind of action that happens to be.

In many parts of the world, bookmakers have seen a huge surge in political markets, with a special emphasis on the raucous, binary American electoral system. This emerging phenomenon was explained in some detail in a recent article on by Tony Rehagen. Rehagen points out that while regulated American sports betting outlets aren’t allowed to offer political wagering, American sports bettors are finding ways to participate in a market that does big business in other countries, especially the UK.

Ladbrokes, for example, pulled in nearly $123 million on the surprise election of Donald Trump in 2016. This election year, with few alternatives, political punters are dropping dimes on everything from who Joe Biden would select as a running mate, to how many times Trump will refer to the corona virus as “the China Virus.”

John Lester of BookMaker told Rehagen, “Our [sports betting] handle is down 80 percent for March 2020 vs. March 2019. However, our handle in political markets is up 200 percent for March 2020 (basically since sports stopped) vs. January and February combined.”

As of this writing, no US state currently allows sports betting operators to wager on politics or political futures. But if the crisis continues, don’t be surprised if US states like Nevada and New Jersey find themselves more willing to embrace the political wagering markets that have been big business in the UK for decades.