People have been gambling on sports for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks and Romans wagered on athletic contests ranging from foot races to wrestling.
Comparatively, political betting hasn’t been around quite as long. Therefore, you might not be as familiar with how wagering on politics works.
This guide discusses the main differences between political and sports betting. It also covers similarities between the two.
Key Differences Between Sports & Political Betting
You won’t experience much difficulty gambling on politics if you’re already well-versed in sports wagering. Nevertheless, you should keep the following differences in mind when moving from sports to politics betting and vice versa.
Sports Betting Offers Far More Markets
Variety is one of the biggest keys to sports gambling’s popularity. Most bookmakers cover dozens of markets ranging from the NFL to women’s field hockey.
Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, you’ll never be at a loss when looking for sports bets. The same can’t always be said about political betting.
Sportsbooks must offer markets that their gamblers truly care about. They can’t roll out odds on the next mayor of Bucktown USA and expect to attract countless bettors.
Instead, they need to feature political odds that draw numerous gamblers. They’re relegated to providing lines on presidential/prime minister races, high-profile governor races, and winning political parties.
Here are some examples:
- Next President of the US
- Next Prime Minister of the UK
- Majority party in US Senate
- Majority party in US House
- Next Mayor of London
- Next Governor of New York
You at least have some different options to choose from regarding these examples. However, the politics betting markets are still nowhere close to sports in terms of quantity.
Political Bets Only Offer 2-4 Realistic Options
Many politics markets can be similar to baseball “futures” bets for example. Like futures, they can offer odds on several candidates either months or years in advance of an election.
Here’s an example regarding the 2020 US Presidential Election:
- Joe Biden -160
- Donald Trump +130
- Mike Pence +4000
- Hillary Clinton +5000
- Kanye West +10000
Early odds typically give you a wide variety of candidates to choose from. After all, one party must still select which politician they want to run against the incumbent.
However, most of the options aren’t serious threats to win. The list above shows that only Trump and Biden have realistic shots of winning.
Vice President Mike Pence (R), for example, has no chance of winning the race if President Trump (R) runs. After all, parties don’t encourage challengers to their incumbent candidate.
A sports betting future, in contrast, generally offers more than 2-4 realistic options. Here’s an example using current odds on the 2021 Super Bowl winner:
- Kansas City Chiefs +300
- Baltimore Ravens +550
- San Francisco 49ers +700
- New Orleans Saints +1000
- Dallas Cowboys +1250
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1400
- Philadelphia Eagles +1650
- Seattle Seahawks +2000
The NFL is a league of parity. That said, any of these teams could win the Super Bowl, so look at these names when Super Bowl betting in 2021.
Sports Gambling Is Legal in More Countries & States
Many state and federal governments used to look at sports betting with a jaundiced eye. They saw legal gambling as having the potential to corrupt sports.
However, countries have gradually eased their view on the matter. They’d rather risk a scandal or two than lose potential tax revenue to offshore bookmakers.
Politics gambling hasn’t gained the same clout among lawmakers. Many governments fear election manipulation much more than they do sports corruption.
After all, democracies elect the public officials who’ll lead them. People would quickly lose faith in such a system if it could be corrupted by gambling.
Of course, these fears may not be entirely warranted. UK bookmakers, for example, have successfully run a political betting market since the early 1960s.
Most other countries, on the other hand, are still leery about legalizing this type of wagering. Their citizens often place election bets via unregulated offshore bookmakers.
Political Odds Can Swing Wildly
The majority of elections aren’t clear-cut paths to victory. You don’t see many blowouts in high-profile races, where a candidate wins over 70% of the popular vote.
Instead, the average political race is a roller-coaster affair. It can be affected by many factors, including campaign ads, current events, debates, and scandals.
Many remember when Hillary Clinton was practically a shoo-in to win the 2016 US Presidential Election. Less than two weeks from the election, she enjoyed a comfortable six-point lead in most polls.
However, this point marked when FBI Director James Comey began looking into Hillary’s emails. She also failed to campaign in Wisconsin and saw less African-American support at the pools than Barack Obama enjoyed.
Donald Trump suddenly gained ground and saw his betting odds improve too. Those who wagered on Trump early on, or even two weeks out, would’ve earned a nice sum of money after he captured the presidency.
Long story short, politics typically give gamblers far less information than the average sporting contest. Bettors only get a complete picture at a few weeks, or even few days, before the election is decided.
How Are Politics and Sports Betting the Same?
Political and sports gambling may be quite different in a few areas. However, you shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to either due to the following reasons.
Same Type of Odds
If you know how to read sports betting odds, then you’ll have no trouble getting started with election wagers. Just like sports, politics either come packaged with American (e.g. +200), decimal (e.g. 3.0), or fractional odds (e.g. 2/1).
The type of odds that are available differ based on the sportsbook’s primary audience. American odds are most commonly used by operators that serve North America.
The decimal variety is typically used by European-facing bookmakers. Fractional odds are specific to the UK.
Some sportsbooks offer an option that lets you toggle between the three sets of odds. You can also use an online tool to convert one style of odds to another.
You’ll also see the same value bets offered in both sports and politics. Moneylines, totals, prop bets, and futures are common with both types of gambling.
Moneylines are by far the most-common bet offered in association with political races. They see you win a different amount of money based on which candidate you bet on.
Here’s an example:
Next UK Prime Minister
- Keir Starmer -110; Betting $110 to win $100
- Rishi Sunak +160; Betting $100 to win $160
- Michael Gove +700; Betting $100 to win $700
- Dominic Rab +1000; Betting $100 to win $1,000
Totals (a.k.a. over/under) provide a line that you must bet over or under. These wagers deal with anything from how many times a politician will tweet to the number of votes they’ll win by.
Here’s an example:
How many times will Joe Biden say “c’mon man” during the first debate?
- Over 3.5 (-110) – You need Biden to say c’mon man 4 or more times.
- Under 3.5 (-110) – You need Biden to say c’mon man less than 3 times.
- You’re betting $110 to win $100 in both cases.
Prop bets deal with outcomes that aren’t necessarily tied to who wins an election. The example involving tweets mentioned above is one example of a prop bet.
Finally, futures are similar to standard moneylines. But they typically include more available outcomes/candidates and are offered well in advance of a race.
Available at Online & Land Based Bookmakers
Many betting sites offer politics gambling—especially during presidential and prime minister election years. Online sportsbooks draw lots of action from high-profile races.
Most countries have yet to legalize online political betting. But offshore bookmakers commonly serve these nations.
Land-based operators in certain countries also offer politics lines. The UK features more regulated political betting than any nation.
Of course, sports betting is widely available through online and land-based sportsbooks. More countries/states legalize this form of gambling every year.
Both Are Highly Popular
Sports wagering is extremely popular throughout the globe. Betting is expected to be a 6.5 billion dollar industry in the US alone by 2025, according to Statista.
Sports offer opportunities to place wagers year round. The fall, when major sports like soccer and tennis run, is an especially popular time to bet.
Wagering on politics isn’t quite as prominent from a sheer numbers perspective. However, it is quite popular when considering the relatively small selection of odds.
Bookmakers have gotten bolder with the number of politics lines they offer. Based on trends, this type of wagering will continue growing.
Political gambling presents a different side of the betting world. It gives you an opportunity to wager on election results and other outcomes (e.g. prop bets).
Politics betting features the same odds and bet types. You just need to use a slightly different approach when looking for the most-valuable outcomes.
You’ll notice many political lines at online sportsbooks as elections draw nearer. That said, you shouldn’t experience any difficulty finding politics wagers.