Betting On Elections? New Jersey Regulator Not Eager To Lead The Way

Updated: 8 Politics & Current Affairs

John Brennan explains why political wagering in the United States still has many hurdles to clear.

Betting On Elections? New Jersey Regulator Not Eager To Lead The Way

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John Brennan US Gambling News Editor

John is our gambling industry expert for New Jersey bringing the breaking news in all things NJ online gaming

David Rebuck, New Jersey's Director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, runs an agency that has considerable latitude over what qualifies as legitimate options for sportsbooks in the state to list for wagers.

The Academy Awards, eSports tournaments, and even the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, N.Y. (after an initial ban in 2019) all have gotten the green light from DGE in recent years.

So what about betting on elections? After all, wagering on U.S. Presidential and Congressional races has been popular in places like the United Kingdom and Ireland for more than a decade.

But speaking on a recent panel at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City, N.J. recently, Rebuck said this topic is a different issue altogether.

"Politics is the ultimate sport," said Rebuck, who will be inducted into the SBC Sports Betting Hall of Fame in New Jersey next week.

"But from what I see, it's never going to happen in New Jersey until legislation passes and it tells me that I have to do it," Rebuck added. "That decision has to be made at a much higher level."

Rebuck acknowledged that betting on elections in other countries occurs, but he seemed skeptical that it would work in the U.S.

It is little remembered now, but betting on elections was once legal in the U.S. – in one state, for one hour, in 2020.

That’s how long it took West Virginia regulators to realize that they had not done their homework on the issue. A FanDuel spokesperson said the company had taken only one such wager – amount undisclosed – before the betting window closed.

Even the man considered to be the Founding Father of the ultimately successful push in New Jersey to gain a U.S. Supreme Court victory – the overturning in 2018 of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that opened the door for sports betting in any state that wants to offer it - is skittish about the concept of betting on elections.

"I don't think it's a good idea," former New Jersey state Senator Raymond Lesniak told The Associated Press. "It just seems ... unseemly."

That said, illegal offshore sportsbooks continue to offer a robust menu of election betting. One site on Tuesday had President Joseph Biden at 78.5% chance to gain the Democratic Party nomination in 2024, with ex-President Donald Trump at a 62.8% chance to gain the Republican Party nod.

For the general election, Biden was slotted at a 34.6% chance to win reelection, while Trump was at 26% and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, at 13.7%.

Historically, the illegal sites invite wagers on what appear to be whimsical choices. At least one UK sportsbook in 2011 offered odds on the improbable candidacies of Trump – who won in 2016 – and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who briefly ran for President in 2020.

Today, a gambler could take a flier on former First Lady Michelle Obama at 2.1%, just-departed Fox News host Tucker Carlson to be the next President at 1.1%, or longtime U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders at 0.2%.

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