US Election Sees Biggest-Ever Political Bet of £1m, Anticipates £1bn in Total Wagers

  • Democrat challenger Joe Biden is a solid favorite to beat President Trump
  • Record £1m bet on the Betfair exchange will pay out a profit of £540,000 if successful
  • With no legal way for US bettors to wager on political events, many are taking to offshore sites
  • A temporary suspension of election betting markets occurred after Trump contracted COVID-19
Silhouette of Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic opponent Joe Biden. who are contesting the 2020 United States presidential election
Sportsbooks expect about £1bn in wagers on the 2020 US presidential election, with the Betfair exchange receiving a record-breaking £1m political bet. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A divisive event

Sportsbooks and betting exchanges predict that the 2020 US presidential election will be a £1bn ($1.3bn) betting event, with one bettor placing a record-breaking political wager of £1m ($1.3m) on Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

For some time, Biden has been the firm favorite in the betting markets and political polls to defeat current President Donald Trump in the November 3 election. On Tuesday morning, the Betfair exchange tweeted about the latest developments across US election betting markets:

Trump’s odds have been improving slightly in recent days, but he is still the underdog. However, this was also the case in the 2016 election. Only a day before the election, sportsbooks gave him a mere 20% chance of defeating opponent Hillary Clinton. 

According to odds compiler site Oddschecker, Biden’s election odds fell overnight from a 65.2% probability of winning to a 61.9% chance.

Record wagering activity

The Betfair exchange received its record-breaking political wager of £1m on October 29, with the bettor looking to make a profit of £540,000 ($701,435) if the bet is successful.

The operator has already seen more than £300m ($390m) worth of election bets so far. It estimates that the figure could rise to £400m ($512m) before the election is over. This would amount to around double the value of wagers on the 2016 election. 

The previous biggest political bet on the Betfair exchange was £555,000 ($720,830) on Trump to win the 2016 election. However, the large wagers are not always winners, with one Betfair user losing £550,000 ($714,337) on Hillary Clinton in the same election.

Currently, there is no way for United States-based bettors to place legal wagers on political events. Many residents use offshore betting sites to do so. One popular offshore sportsbook catering to US customers reportedly said last week that the total value of bets it had accepted on the election was greater than the usual Super Bowl handle.

Uncertainty in betting

After President Trump tested positive for COVID-19 in early October, sportsbooks suspended election betting markets for some time. This occurred because of rising uncertainty over how the virus would affect Trump and what impact it might subsequently have on the election. 

Current Vice President Mike Pence’s odds to be the next president fell significantly at the time, amid concerns about the president’s health. In the end, Trump overcame the virus and was quickly back on the campaign trail. Betting markets then went live once more.