GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 36 - October 2016

Illustration by Nicoleta Ionescu/Shutterstock W W W . G P W A T I M E S . O R G 29 W agering on politics has been a popular pastime since as early as the 18 th century. But even if you reach that far back into the history books, there have been few more polarizing figures than Mr. Donald J. Trump involved in a major election. That’s right: Whether you adore The Donald or your blood pressure rises with every Tweet and press conference, there’s no denying that he’s a bona fide bonanza for the betting business. The much-ballyhooed Brexit vote in June was the most-wagered political betting market of all time. But pundits fully expect the U.S. Presidential election in November to easily surpass the ac- tion that Brexit attracted, and the primary source for this widely accepted expectation is the bombastic Republican nominee. “Yes, I do expect this to be the biggest market ever, and the fun- damental reason is the Trump factor,” said Paul Krishnamurty, a professional gambler and independent political analyst who regularly contributes to Politico and . “People are watching and tracking this election unlike anything else we have ever seen before, because he’s fantastic entertain- ment. You really never know what he’s going to say next.” Even without the inclusion of a character like Trump and another strong and controversial candidate like Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, betting on politics was already a burgeoning market and in recent years has become much more than just a novelty, for bettors and bookies alike. Other massively wagered events over the last couple years include the Scottish referendum in 2014 and the U.K. General Election in 2015. Both, however, were easily surpassed by the Brexit vote, the provocative withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union, which drew upwards of £127 million in wagers, according to some reports. Krishnamurty thinks there are multiple reasons for the rise in popularity of betting on politics over the last decade, not the least of which is the advent of Internet gambling. Additionally, the more news coverage an event attracts, the more betting action it’s going to write. Brexit received massive worldwide attention in the days leading up the vote and the weeks after it was decided. When the polls opened, the betting markets still had “Remain” as a 90% probability outcome, with “Leave” in the range of 6-to-1 and 7-to-1. Most books didn’t have “Leave” as the favorite very late in the game, and when 52% of the voters backed “Leave,” chaos ensued. “I think (the betting market) was so big for two reasons,” said Krishnamurty. “First, the potential to correlate betting markets with financial markets. This doesn’t really apply in normal elections, and certainly not leadership contests. Second, (Brexit) simply captured the public imagination much more than politics as usual . . . I’ve never seen anything engage the U.K. public in politics like it.” “The intensemedia coverage of Brexit certainly helped the cause,” added “MJ,” a webmaster and GPWA member from OnlineBet- “We also noticed themainstreammedia frequently mentioning the betting odds in relation to the Brexit saga –more so than in past political events.And it didn’t hurt that the Brexit story was so big, so controversial, andwas conveniently centered in the middle of one of the world’s largest regulated betting markets.” Finally, Krishnamurty says that the number of variants in which someone can wager on politics has increased dramatically over the years, thanks to betting exchanges and the addition of proposition bets. “Betting on a U.S. General Election is no longer something you just do in November,” he said. “You start 18 months before- hand on the exchange market and bet accordingly as the odds change. And just because Hillary is a strong favorite to win, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways wager.” For example, you can bet each state’s Electoral College votes individually. Krishnamurty also expects live betting to be available during the debate cycle, along with other fun novelty bets. “Once again, with Trump involved there will be plenty of ways to make this interesting,” he said. “Things like, ‘Will he refer to Hillary as “Crooked Hillary” in the debate?’ Those are the kinds of options bettors will have available.” Despite the mounting momentum for political wagering, some affiliates the GPWA spoke to say it’s not a viablemarket to go after, since the buildup andpayout cycles are too slowand the amount wa- gered is too small to get a decent ROI on the time spent marketing it. “MJ” had a slightly differing opinion. While he agreed the lack of daily events is a drawback, he added that Brexit was a signal to him and his business partner, Wes, that there was revenue to be made in this market. “Yes, I do expect this to be the biggest market ever and the fundamental reason is the Trump factor . . . You really never know what he’s going to say next.”