West Virginia sportsbooks poised to take U.S. presidential election bets

Legal sportsbooks in West Virginia are poised to offer betting on the U.S. presidential election in what would be a historic moment in the American betting market.

West Virginia would be the first state to allow licensed sportsbooks to take bets on national elections. Randy Burnside, assistant director for the West Virginia Lottery, told ESPN on Tuesday that the lottery had initially approved election betting but is researching the issue further.

On Tuesday, FanDuel's sportsbook in West Virginia briefly posted odds on the winner of the 2020 presidential election, the winning party and the Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees, among others. Donald Trump was listed as a -110 favorite to win the 2020 presidential election, with Joe Biden next at +125.

"While the markets were approved, the West Virginia Lottery has asked FanDuel to refrain from offering the markets until they have time to fully work through the implications of this new market offering," a spokesperson for FanDuel said in a statement Tuesday night after the election odds were taken off the board.

Election betting has been legal and popular for years in the United Kingdom, which has had a regulated betting market for decades. In the U.S., however, none of the states that have authorized sports betting have allowed wagering on elections.

Nevada bookmakers have expressed interest in offering betting on elections, and legislation has been introduced in recent years but has not been passed. Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports for the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, believes betting on the presidential election would surpass betting on the Super Bowl.

"We've talked to people around the world," Kornegay told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in March. "The books that offer [presidential election betting] say it outhandles the Super Bowl 10 times over. And it makes sense. Many more people have opinions about the election than about the Super Bowl."

More than $157 million was bet on this year's Super Bowl at Nevada sportsbooks.

With most major sports around the world halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, sportsbooks have been scrambling to find events on which to offer betting. Now, books in West Virginia appear to be close to having another option.