The final frenzy surrounding the US presidential election happens every four years, but the buildup to it is just as intense and a near-constant part of life in the US. That’s what makes it the Super Bowl of betting on elections.
The presidential election, though, is far from the only election you can bet on. In fact, you can bet on elections large and small for most of the year, from state governors to members of Congress to mayors and DAs, and in recall elections, special elections and primaries.
Democrats? Republicans? Liberals? Conservatives? As individuals? As a group? You can bet on them all.
What you can’t do, though, is step up to just any legal US sportsbook and make real money bets on US elections. But there is one place that you can turn to right now if election and political betting is your thing: PredictIt.
PredictIt is a site that lets you “bet” on elections and voting, both in the US and elsewhere in the world. To get started, see our guide to US election betting below.
Is it legal to bet on US elections in the US?
No. It is not legal to bet on any US elections anywhere within the country’s borders. It is possible to bet on US elections from other parts of the world, however. In addition, there are other ways to get in on the action, just like the days before sports betting became legal in so many states.
You can find free-to-play betting pools, or even subscription markets, where you can enjoy the entertainment value of making your election wagers. You can also use online trading market PredictIt in America, however, to have a financial stake in the outcome of an election.
PredictIt operates legally in the US based on guidance from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that allows for “the trading of event contracts and the offering of such event contracts to US persons.”
As interest in politics and election betting grows in the US, the demand for election betting is likely to increase, as well. As for revenues that legal political wagering could generate, Matthew Shaddick, the head of political betting at GVC, has estimated that over $1 billion was wagered around the world on the 2020 presidential election.
How does PredictIt work?
PredictIt works through online trading markets and not through actual bets and wagers.
The basic premise of PredictIt is that traders exchange “shares” of a specific outcome — such as the presidential elections. Some might trade shares that former President Donald Trump will get elected again. Others might trade that he won’t run at all.
Each share has a price on it between one cent and 99 cents. If the prediction comes true, people holding those shares receive payment based on the number of shares they have. Those who were wrong receive nothing.
Some people claim to make a steady amount of money off online election trading markets, especially those who play all year and not just during the big elections. According to PredictIt’s website, the top players — around the top 10 or 20 — make more than $100,000 a year from the site, while many more make between $20,000 and $80,000.
Most people, however, will make far less. The PredictIt site says that in order to make money, users have to be one of three things:
- Good at predicting things.
- Good at reacting to the news.
- Good at tactics such as buying shares low and selling high.
Think of it like a stock market. You get shares, you can trade them, and you can hold them for either the outcome or to sell for a profit. Sometimes you lose money, of course, because that’s the risk you take.
How do I get a PredictIt account?
To sign up for PredictIt, click the link above. In the top right corner will be the option to log in or sign up. When you click sign up, you’ll have the opportunity to either use your Twitter or Facebook account to start, or you can enter your email and create a password. Once you get past that screen, you’ll have to enter your personal information like your name, date of birth and address.
Next up is the option to make a deposit using your credit card. The minimum deposit is $10, and there is no deposit fee. However, you don’t need to make a deposit to proceed to your dashboard, where you can view available markets and your profile.
Playing in US Election pools
The thing about political betting pools is that they’re a little like Family Feud — you’re guessing what you think other people think. If most of the people in the pool are pretty savvy and make good guesses, that’s great and a lot of fun. But, of course, you’re taking the chance they’re not. Trust pools as much as you trust the people in them, which is to say, possibly not 100%.
In 2020, DraftKings took the risk out of political pools and offered a free betting pool on the US presidential election, just for fun and entertainment. If you’d looked at that pool right before the election, however, you’d have seen a pretty inaccurate picture: 49 of 50 states had been turned red for Trump on DraftKings’ electoral map, thanks to passionate Trump supporters flooding the pool. As PlayUSA noted at the time, “emotion and partisanship were holding sway for players.”
Also of note: FanDuel ran a similar free 2020 election pool, possibly testing US bettors’ appetites for political betting. It took a bit more of an analytical approach, though, allowing players to not only gauge the futures on who would win overall, but also to predict outcomes on things like how Nevada or Michigan would vote, whether either candidate would gain more than 10% of the popular vote over the other, or even longer odds, like if Joe Biden would be the first Democrat to win Texas since 1976.
What are the 2024 US presidential election odds?
Like any futures bet, the presidential election in the United States starts with a lot of long odds and then gets tighter as the field narrows. By the time all of the primaries are finished and the major party nominations are locked in, bookmakers will have nailed the odds down tight.
Outside of the US, though, there’s definitely room to play when there is still a wide-open field. There will be favorites — such as the incumbent — but sometimes it’s the longshot that comes away with the nomination. (Honestly, who saw Donald Trump actually getting on the ballot four years before he did?)
Recent US election odds have current Vice President Kamala Harris as the 2024 presidential election favorite, which makes sense considering the much larger Black voter turnouts than in previous elections. As an example, one major UK sportsbook has her listed at 2024 US election odds of +350.
Incumbent President Joe Biden isn’t far behind at +450, though there is a lot of speculation that he won’t be running for a second term, despite him saying otherwise in March 2021. Donald Trump is at +550, while fellow Republican Nikki Haley is at +1100 and former Vice President Mike Pence stands at +1400.
Betting on the US presidential election
The NFL has the Super Bowl. The NHL has the Stanley Cup. Election betting’s crown jewel is the US presidential election.
Like Super Bowl betting, the election to decide the next president brings out bettors who are more interested in the novelty aspect of the bet than the actual opportunity itself. Books in countries where it is legal to bet on elections will provide listings knowing that they’ll get amateur wagers, and as the buzz grows — especially in a tightly contested race — the opportunity to make money grows with it.
You don’t even have to just wager on who wins the US presidential election. You can wager on which party takes the Oval Office, which candidate will be the nominee for a particular party, which candidates will file and announce their intent to run for the office and more.
This is hardly just Democrat versus Republican or presidential candidate against presidential candidate. Just like the Super Bowl does for football, the US presidential election opens up a world of political betting.
Will Donald Trump (or his family) run for president?
This question will likely be one that bettors in some parts of the world can bet on until the day the former president dies. Will he run? Will he get the nomination? Will he win the presidency?
Even when his name isn’t being thrown around, the pundits expect one of his children — most notably daughter Ivanka Trump — to announce a run in his place. Heck, some markets currently have her at +3300 for 2024.
As for if the former president will actually announce his intention to run? Currently books that can offer such bets — so not in the US — have those US election betting odds at +400. With the fever surrounding him from his fanbase, one has to wonder why those odds are so favorable to the bettor right now.
Keep an eye on the listings to see how much they change as the year drags on and we get closer and closer to that 2024 election.
Presidential election trends
Every election is different, of course, but there are some general trends over the last few decades that can give you some clues about how you might want to bet.
For instance, the two major US political parties, Republicans and Democrats, have become more or less evenly balanced when you take the country as a whole. The margins have gotten narrower and narrower since about 1980 if you’re looking at how much one candidate can win over the other — it’s nearly always in single-digit percentages when you’re looking at the whole US. That’s why every presidential election is so closely contested: Neither party has a decisive majority of voters on its side.
However, that’s not true at a more regional level. If you’re making state-by-state bets or bets that take more regional geography into account, different areas of the US have solidified as either red (Republican) or blue (Democrat) in their voting.
In particular, Southern states are far more likely to vote for a Republican, and both the Northeast (New England states, New York, New Jersey) and the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington) are definitely more likely to vote for a Democrat. So placing a bet on a Republican candidate for California’s governor, for example, is probably going to have longer odds. Then again, there was Arnold Schwarzenegger, so never say never.
One thing to consider that does even more to influence election odds is job approval ratings for incumbent office holders. Higher ratings mean they’re more likely to keep their offices. (Exhibit A: The 2020 election, when Trump’s odds of winning got worse and worse the further his approval rating dropped.)
National pollsters keep a very close eye on those approval ratings; you can check reputable political polls like Gallup, which is the standard for that particular measure and has been tracking presidential approval ratings since Harry Truman was president.
The betting markets on presidential elections also do a good job keeping up with the newest trends in polling and approval ratings, so keeping an eye on them in real time is a good indicator in the short term.
Betting on a presidential administration
Wagers don’t have to be just on who wins elections, either. In countries where you can bet on elections, some bets will focus on the administration itself, instead.
During the Trump administration, there was quite a bit of turmoil. Staffers were hired, fired and resigned throughout the four years. Listings were popping up on each of the high-profile staff members, and bettors were able to make wagers on if they would be fired, who would be appointed, if they would resign and even if they would make it through the entire four-year stint.
With Biden now in office, the betting is taking place once again on various appointments and how they will exit the position, if at all.
What other US elections can you bet on?
The larger the election is in the United States — especially if it is getting a lot of media coverage — the more likely it is you’re going to find it listed for wagers at sportsbooks in countries that allow such betting.
Some positions of power come with a bit of celebrity status. Take a look at the mayor of New York City, or the governor of California. Both will attract their share of national headlines. While not every election is going to be listed, the more popular it is going to be, then the more likely it is you’re going to see it in a sportsbook.
Recalls, resignations and special elections
The political landscape always guarantees one thing: Drama. Tons of it. More than anyone can even stand, really. But all that drama does end up meaning lots of interesting possibilities for election wagers in places that allow them.
- Recalls: These are more and more common in this day and age. The ability to communicate instantaneously with masses of people has made it easier to get the numbers together to make a recall a reality. When politicians get themselves in deep water, you can almost guarantee there is going to be a recall of some kind. If the politician is a big enough name, that possible recall could potentially end up as a subject for bets.
- Resignations: Recalls are far from the only drama that happens in politics. Resignations are a big deal, too, especially for positions of high power, like the attorney general of the US, or a mayor of a large city, or, as happened just once, even a US president. If politicians are embroiled in scandals, or have a massive turnout of people beginning to call for their job, it is quite possible that they will resign to not only get out of the public eye, but to save a little face, as well.
- Special markets: Obviously, special markets arise in response to certain events — like in 2020, the US Senate runoffs in Georgia eventually won by Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff fueled speculation in political betting markets for some time in a fun little coda after the main event of the presidential election. And right after that in some parts of the world were markets on whether Trump would be impeached by Congress or convicted by the Senate afterward.
World election markets
The United States isn’t the only country to hold free and fair elections. In fact, they are pretty common in the 21st century across the globe. That means there are also plenty of other countries with election betting markets.
The big one on the list is going to be the United Kingdom. Politics in the UK are basically a sport on their own. The media covers them like crazy. Every citizen seems to have very strong opinions. And the betting is frenzied at times.
But there are plenty of other election markets around the globe, as well. There are markets available for Spain, France, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and other European countries. Even Brexit gets its own political betting opportunities.
If you like taking long shots, you can even wager on if North and South Korea will reunify as a single state. If politics are your thing, you’ll discover there are a significant number of opportunities abroad.
History of political betting
Betting on elections in the United States is nothing new. In fact, the earliest organized markets for taking bets on presidential elections date back to the 1860s.
Long before the creation of the independent polling now used to indicate which way the populace is leaning in an election, predictions were being made thanks to public betting. Once opinion polls came into existence in the 1930s, however, political betting began to lose its luster in the United States.