Trump-Biden election off-limits for US bettors (so far)

FILE - In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Collier, Pa., on March 6, 2018, and President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 20, 2018. For a moment, West Virginia looked like it was going to be the only state in the country to allow betting on the presidential election. The short-lived play by bookmaker giant FanDuel was approved by the state lottery board. But it was announced and nixed within the span of about two hours Tuesday, April 7, 2020 in a bizarre sequence that appeared to baffle top government officials. Republican Gov. Jim Justice said it was ridiculous and he didn't know why the lottery commission would approve such a deal. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Collier, Pa., on March 6, 2018, and President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 20, 2018. For a moment, West Virginia looked like it was going to be the only state in the country to allow betting on the presidential election. The short-lived play by bookmaker giant FanDuel was approved by the state lottery board. But it was announced and nixed within the span of about two hours Tuesday, April 7, 2020 in a bizarre sequence that appeared to baffle top government officials. Republican Gov. Jim Justice said it was ridiculous and he didn't know why the lottery commission would approve such a deal. (AP Photo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Double down on Donald, or bet big on Biden? Plenty of Americans would like the chance to place a bet on the upcoming presidential election (and sports books would love to take their money), but so far, it is not legal anywhere in the country.

It actually was permitted for about an hour in West Virginia on Tuesday as the state gave — and then quickly rescinded — permission for sports books to take bets on the election, saying it needed to study the issue further.

With sports betting continuing to spread in the U.S., bookmakers are taking bets on things like the Oscars that have nothing to do with sports. And with all the major sports on hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, they're desperately looking for new things on which gamblers can bet.

Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of operations at the Westgate SuperBook, said industry colleagues in Europe and at offshore unlicensed sports books have said they take in 10 to 15 times as much money on the U.S. presidential election as American sports books take on the Super Bowl.

“It would be gigantic,” he said. “It would be the biggest offering we would have on the board.”

But no U.S. jurisdiction has yet allowed betting on elections, and several explicitly prohibit it. PredictIt, a website built by a group of researchers in New Zealand, allows people to buy and sell shares of a candidate at prices up to $1. Bets are limited to $850. (The site listed Trump at 49 cents Wednesday, and Biden at 45 cents.)

West Virginia had a false start Tuesday, approving bets on the presidential election before reversing itself and quickly shutting down the market.

“It got put up as a market that is legal in West Virginia, but we hadn't done all the research we need to do, and we pulled it down after an hour,” said John Myers, director of the West Virginia Lottery.