‘This Is a Terrible Idea’: Political Betting Done in U.S. After West Virginia Botches Rollout
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. Pictured: Donald Trump
That’s all it lasted.
On Wednesday night, for the first time in American history, a U.S. sportsbook posted odds on a Presidential Election.
FanDuel went live in West Virginia with various props involving the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election at around 8 p.m. ET, announcing in a press release that it partnered with the West Virginia Lottery to be the first to offer legal political betting.
Minutes later, after tweets reporting the news spread with gusto, all four markets — including the 2020 election winner (Donald Trump was a slight favorite over Joe Biden) — disappeared, along with FanDuel's newly added Politics tab.
Then came the scramble.
A spokesman for the West Virginia Lottery said that someone had jumped the gun. FanDuel then responded by saying it was pulling the market, even though it had indeed been approved.
Later in the night, a source told The Action Network that it was unlikely that those who approved the offering in West Virginia were aware of how controversial the decision would be, nor did they know that they were making betting history in the U.S. Ultimately, the source said, the odds of the political market coming back were slim.
By Wednesday, it was officially put to bed when West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner issued a statement saying political betting can’t be approved in the state because it had been illegal since 1868, adding, "This is a terrible idea."
“Gambling on the outcome of an election has no place in our American democracy,” Warner said. “Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who owns The Greenbrier, and whose sportsbook is run by FanDuel, said Wednesday "the very second I found out about [the political betting], I disapproved it because we're not going to do that. We shut it down immediately and we will address it."
Per ESPN's David Purdum, the lottery never notified Gov. Justice that it had approved political betting in the state and that FanDuel was set to launch various Presidential Election markets.
The immediate blowback in West Virginia, combined with restrictive regulations in other legal betting states, make it highly unlikely we'll see political betting of any kind offered at U.S. sportsbooks anytime soon.
FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy said one person made a bet on the Presidential Election. He wouldn’t say who the bettor bet on or the amount, other than to say it was nominal. The bet was voided and the money was refunded.