More than half a billion dollars in wagers on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election remains in limbo as gambling websites refuse to declare Biden the winner.
Betting on politics is illegal in the United States, but for worldwide bookies, the election brought in more action than the Super Bowl. London-based Betfair took a record-shattering $831 million in wagers, up dramatically from the $257 million risked on the Trump-Clinton contest in 2016.
Weeks later those wagers still haven’t been paid out, as Betfair awaits an official signal that the contentious election results are final. “Before settling the markets, we must therefore wait for clarity around ongoing vote counts, recounts and any potential legal challenges to the results,” the company announced in a statement.
Betfair may have learned to err on the side of caution after a blunder made by Irish gambling platform PaddyPower, who prematurely paid out $1 million in bets that Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 presidency.
“People who bet Trump say it is not over. People who bet Biden say it is. This makes for a tricky situation where we have to be sure. It’s not like a football game,” remarked Adam Burns, a sportsbook manager at BetOnline. “We still have not graded a winner.”
For election gamblers, huge sums of money hang in the balance. Betfair took a $1.3 million wager on Biden that would pay the winner out nearly $2 million. The largest political gamble in history was made on Trump taking back the White House, an astonishing $5 million risk to earn $15 million in rewards was placed at a private bookmaker in Curacao.
The delayed payouts have caused a headache for the betting platforms. “This is horrible for us. We want people to get paid out and going off to bet football. But due to the size of the handle, we can’t,” said Pat Morrow of the sportsbook Bovada. “If we pay out on Biden early and somehow, some way Trump wins and we have to pay out again that would be a quarter of our yearly revenue.”
With Biden as the odds on favorite, bookies are hoping he is declared the winner. PaddyPower reported that 93% of the action was being put on Trump the day before the election. Morrow says Bovada will lose more money than it ever has on a single betting event if Trump wins the election.
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