Bookies Corner: US 2020… Pandemic adds more spin to betting’s biggest market

Under normal circumstances, April and May should have been key campaign months for the US 2020 Elections (3 November), with the Democratic Party crowning Joe Biden to challenge President Trump.

However, US 2020’s script has been flipped by COVID-19 consequences, adding further divisive factors to the campaign trail, as bookies tell SBC to buckle up for this year’s biggest wagering market!

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SBC: How have Covid-19 factors reshaped US 2020 trading as a market. Can bookies maintain confidence that the US electorate will head to the polls on 3 November?

Matt Shaddick – Ladbrokes

Matt Shaddick (Head of Ladbrokes Politics): Whilst the pandemic appears to have knocked confidence in Trump winning, I don’t think it’s changed much else in the dynamics of the betting markets. The Democratic nomination race was all but over anyway, so the delays in holding primaries aren’t very significant. I don’t think there is much chance of the election not being held this year (you can get 8/1 with Ladbrokes if you think differently).

Constitutionally, it’s not going to be easy to implement a delay and there is always the option of more states moving to postal voting, as already happens in some. Anyone who tells you that “Trump is going to stop it happening” probably isn’t all that familiar with the US constitution.

At present, Ladbrokes and GVC indications are that it will be about 2 or 3 times as big as 2016 and will easily end up being the highest turnover non-sports event of all time.

Sarbjit Bakhshi – Smarkets

SBC: Following a gruelling primary, has the DNC been compromised in its election of Joe Biden as its nominee. What key agenda will Biden campaign on, following the fall-out of Covid-19 consequences?

Sarbjit Bakhshi (Head of Politics, Smarkets): I don’t think it has. Although Biden certainly has his weaknesses – like being four years older than Trump and currently facing allegations of a sexual assault – he is not seen as too progressive or radical, which could alienate mainstream America, and he performs especially well with minorities.

Biden is a solid, middle-of-the-road candidate who has a decent shot of winning the election – our market on the next president has him at an early 42% against Trump’s 48%.

With regards to ‘Covid consequences’… The next president will, of course, have to deal with the ongoing effects of the virus and its aftermath, with the States seemingly guaranteed to go into recession this year (99% on Smarkets). I imagine that Biden will be looking to restore the American middle class through rebuilding the economy. This is not only important for the social fabric of the USA, but also supports a key plank of the Democratic base.

Darren Hughes – Betfair

SBC: For the DNC, media attention has focused on who Joe Biden will nominate as VP running mate. Who will form the ‘DNC ticket‘ and why is it such a ‘make or break’ decision for Uncle Joe?

Darren Hughes (Betfair Politics): The market for the Democratic VP nomination is an interesting one, with several familiar names dominating the betting market at the shortest odds. It’s been a very active market, with over £300k traded on the Betfair Exchange in just under three months.

Former Vice-President Biden has committed to choosing a female VP, so it’s unsurprising that the top 12 in the betting are women. Kamala Harris is the current favourite at 5/2 (suggests about a 30% chance of being selected), with over a third of the total £330k being traded on her, while Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are rated about 5/1 chances (16.5%). Warren may prove a happy medium for the socialist wing of the Democrats, many of whom were left with a sour taste in their mouths over the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the primaries.

An interesting candidate has emerged, rather out of left field, in the shape of former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Having opened at odds of 108/1 (>1%), she has been steadily backed into 15/1 (about 6.5%). Many Americans certainly pine for the days of an Obama White House, so Michelle may offer some memory of those times were Biden to side with her, with her husband’s close friendship with the former Delaware Senator another angle to consider.

Ironically, Barack Obama himself is the first male name on the list of betting, at odds of 89/1 (1.1%), with punters thinking it unlikely that the former President will be keen to step out of retirement and into the Naval Observatory.

Joe Lee – Paddy Power

SBC: Under attack from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump sees his popularity slip, whilst further losing his main narrative of campaigning on a ‘strong economy’… Nevertheless, will any bookmaker be brave enough to issue an early pay-out against the Teflon Don!

Joe Lee (Head of GB&I Paddy Power): Trump (10/11) is officially the biggest priced incumbent to toe the line in the history of US Presidential Election betting. Given possession is considered nine-tenths of the law in many people’s eyes, could this be a political betting gift from the gods?

It’s also possible to apply another old adage in current circumstance…….no publicity is bad publicity. A daily press conference in the midst of a crisis, even though it would never be openly admitted, is a significant platform for an election campaign which could well be curtailed significantly from the norm.

Step forward Joe Biden – the former Vice President to Obama he has hit his stride late given he was a long way behind Sanders and Bloomberg heading into ‘Super Season’. He has the profile, a Democratic broad base appeal, but up until now the closet which houses his skeletons won’t have been inspected with a forensic approach of this magnitude.

They say expect the unexpected when it comes to Trump, but at least on this front you more or less know what you’re going to get, Biden not so much! The Teflon may be in short supply for Joe, but not sure short enough it would merit the earliest of early payouts!

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