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Las Vegas Sportsbook Weighing a Push to Legalize Election Betting

by March 24, 2020

Officials at Westgate, a Las Vegas casino and sportsbook, are considering a push to legalize betting on American elections.

The vice president of Westgate sportsbook, Jay Kornegay, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he has spoken with other executives about a lobbying effort. The Nevada legislature would have to approve the measure, however, and they’ve opposed it in the past. In 2014, a state panel rejected elections betting, and Opponents cited concerns that betting odds may influence election results.

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COVID-19 and Lost Revenue

The news comes as sportsbooks and bettors alike look for new topics to wager on. The COVID-19 pandemic has suspended play across sports, and sportsbooks are losing revenue. Americans bet a total of $8.5 billion on last year’s March Madness tournament, for example, and sportsbooks now must survive without that cash.

Although some Americans may be skeptical of elections betting, it’s common practice outside of the United States. PointsBet’s Australian sportsbook offers odds on the country’s parliamentary elections and the American presidential race. William Hill’s European sportsbooks have also offered odds on American elections, as have other European firms. So while Americans cannot currently bet on the results of their own elections, those bets are offered outside of the country.

It’s doubtful that the state accomplishes much on elections betting during the COVID-19 outbreak. Nevada’s legislature wasn’t scheduled to meet in 2020, and there are currently no plans for the state to declare a special session. Other states have suspended their regular legislative sessions to control the outbreak, too, so there’s little reason to expect a short-term change.

For Westgate, the COVID-19 outbreak takes precedence over elections betting. The casino has suspended both its in-person operations and its mobile sports betting app. Vice president Jay Kornegay explained that the conversations about elections betting took place before the shutdown — but after most sports had called off their games.

“We all understand that we have other things to deal with. We’re looking at the greater good,” Kornegay told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Looking Forward

The Supreme Court opened the door for gambling expansion when it overturned federal regulations in 2018. As a result, Americans can expect pushes for new types of gambling as sportsbooks establish themselves.

Given their success on such offers outside of the United States, it’s no surprise to see them lobby for elections betting.

But until sportsbooks can offer elections betting in the United States, Americans can turn to other outlets to make their wagers. The New Zealand-based PredictIt has long offered futures odds on American politics, and bettors can gamble on numerous American political issues at the site.

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Isaiah Sirois is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Isaiah, check out his archive and follow him @is_sirois.

Bet Types, Politics