Know who likes politics more than James Carville, the late Charles Krauthammer, and your annoying uncle at the Thanksgiving table combined? Bookies.
European and international bookmakers wrote so much action on the U.S. presidential election that it would surprise no one if their proverbial pens ran out of ink.
Betting on politics is not legal in the United States. It’s probably a good thing, too. Too many brand new markets here, and regulators have enough on their plates tracking routine stuff like betting on Rutgers being prohibited in New Jersey. Last thing they need is a paranoid politician screaming that he lost his election because of a bookies' conspiracy. Even if that does seem far-fetched.
“Oh my God, we were just talking about that,” said Pat Eichner of PointsBet, which counts New Jersey among its jurisdictions. “I honestly think we would have done a billion dollars if they allowed betting on politics in the U.S.”
Veteran sports betting writer Darren Rovell reported on Thursday morning that European bookmaker Betfair had written $625 million. Rovell speculated that the total take in the U.S. for the presidential race would have been at least $3 billion. Remember, presidential campaigns also last much longer.
“Everyone has an opinion, one side or the other, and they’re looking at those [odds] swings,” Eichner said. “The swings were so massive, there was an opportunity to bet. It’s crazy.”
According to a report from Vegas-based Covers.com, the Biden-Trump market was so volatile that Biden swung from a +225 underdog to a -600 favorite in 12 hours Tuesday night into early Wednesday afternoon. Trump went from -400 to +400 during what would be the equivalent of in-game betting. The most dangerous kind of action for novice bettors.
Last year’s Super Bowl handle was over $250 million combined for Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The nastiness of the Biden-Trump campaign, and the division it created, would have generated more than 10 times that number industry insiders speculate. But it’s only a guess since it’s not legal in the U.S., and most markets are populated by risk-averse bookmakers who quickly limit sharp bettors anyhow.
There’s also the Trump factor, said Nick Bogdanovich, the director of trading for William Hill’s U.S. operations.
“Hard to believe we will ever see a Trump/Clinton or Trump/Biden situation again,” Bogdanovich said. “Two fairy-tale matchups for betting just four years apart. Would have been a bookmaker’s dream.”
Tired of winning?
With the Eagles among those teams halfway through their 16-game schedule, we thought we’d take a look at the preseason NFL win totals and how those projections are holding up.
“Obviously there’s been some pretty drastic shifts among the underperformers. The Eagles and Cowboys fall into that boat as well,” said Eichner, of Pointsbet. “It speaks volumes to the uncertainty of the season and, this goes with most NFL seasons, the variety of issues that can nip a team in the heel, cause a spiral and take a team down.”
The Eagles opened at 9.5 wins prior to the season but have been adjusted to 6.5. At 3-4-1, the Birds are on pace to win six with a murderous schedule looming. Recreational bettors like to take the overs in futures props, and the Eagles almost certainly are not getting more than 9.5 wins.
Here’s a list of teams most overrated, with their preseason win total followed by their updated win totals entering Week 9: Atlanta (opened 7.5, down to 4.5), Dallas (9.5 to 4.5), Houston (7.5 to 4.5), Jacksonville (4.5 to 2.5), Minnesota (9 to 6.5), New England (9 to 6.5), N.Y. Jets (7 to 1.5), Eagles (9.5 to 6.5), San Francisco (10.5 to off because of injuries).
Underrated: Arizona (opened 7.5, up to 9.5), Kansas City (11.5 to 13.5), Miami (6.5 to 8.5), Pittsburgh (9.5 to 13.5), Seattle (9 to 11.5), Tampa Bay (9.5 to 11.5).
All the other teams are within a game of their preseason over/under.
This & That
The point spread on the Cowboys-Steelers was Steelers -14 as of late Thursday afternoon. It figures to be the highest Dallas has been a home underdog since the 1989 club was 14.5-point 'dogs to the 49ers and lost 31-14. Michael Irvin tore his ACL that day, and the Cowboys went on to go 1-15 that season. Troy Aikman was 0-11 as a starting quarterback; Emmitt Smith was still in college.
The Cowboys are a league-worst 0-8 against the spread, while the Steelers are a league-best 6-1. This easily will be the most the Steelers will be favored by all season, eclipsing the 7.5 points they laid (and covered) to the Eagles in Week 5.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s bout with COVID-19 knocked him out of Saturday’s game at Notre Dame and lowered the line to Clemson -5.5. Handicapper Vegas Vic surmises the line would be just a field goal or so higher if Lawrence was playing.
Lawrence will be missing his second game and is no longer the Heisman favorite. His odds at DraftKings were as high as -167. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (+125) and Ohio State QB Justin Fields (+150) are the favorites.