Star analyst Political Joe joins Guesser News to expose his thoughts on the political betting industry and immediate future of US election markets following the uncertainty that surrounds the White House since last Friday. Don't forget tu subscribe so you can stay updated to the latest experts insights every week.
A little over a month out from the US Presidential Election the betting industry is faced with a moral dilemma; is it right to continue offering odds on an event where a market can ultimately be distilled down to a proposition about life or death?
Following the news on Friday that Donald Trump had tested positive for coronavirus, the leading players in the bookmaking and exchange world were pretty much unanimous in suspending their respective markets. But why might that approach be taken as a default when this is one of the biggest political betting events in history? After all, given the year 2020 has been thus far, the US Presidential Election will most likely rival many of those operators' premium sporting events when it comes to bet count and volume.
In order to answer a question such as this you need to take a high-level look at an industry which is currently journeying through a somewhat forced transformation. Never before has the gambling industry been under such intense scrutiny from so many different sides. The media can be a tough taskmaster at the best of times but in the current climate regulatory bodies and even governments are also throwing their weight around.
An Industry At The Forefront, And All That Implies
With the US market slow to accept political betting (currently not regulated) the UK industry ironically leads the way when it comes to US Election 2020 betting. The UK is the original home of the betting industry as the majority understand it. The smoke-filled high-street bookmakers have transformed from times past into slick streamlined self-serve apps on a mobile phone in your pocket. With this transformation has rightly come increased pressure around the whole area of social responsibility, advertising standards and safer gambling. The UK Gambling Commission licenses and regulates the industry and issues guidelines about the types of markets that are permitted. The UK Government is engaged in an upcoming review of the gambling industry and there has been a lot of speculation about the future regulation of the industry and what that might look like.
Both of these would have weighed heavily on operators’ minds when it comes to evaluating a suspension such as this. Once the decision in the UK was to suspend betting everybody else would follow suit. There is no point in the industry winning the battle, in this case leaving a market such as this active given the current news cycle, if they are ultimately going to lose the war. The perception of offering a betting market where the health of an individual is being speculated upon could easily add to an already negative view of an industry within government buildings. PR implications would also be a significant concern. The industry has been criticised openly in certain sectors of the media over recent years for various shortcomings of times past. It wouldn’t take much effort for a journalist to twist an article into some form of ‘betting on death’ narrative.
While a solid counter argument could be made about the complexity of political betting, and those who invest having to factor in various parameters (including death) when it comes to two 70+ year old candidates running for election in the midst of a global pandemic, in the current environment it’s likely to lose out to the other reputational considerations listed above in the majority of internal debates across the industry. Many of the more savvy bettors into a market such as this will suggest they have evaluated the possibility of health issues for candidates for some time and it would be difficult to disagree. However at this point in the campaign, where there are realistically only two possible outcomes, the aforementioned journalist would essentially have an article written for them and at that point the stakes are too high for larger operators when it comes to negative PR.
What To Expect Now
So when might we see US Election betting markets return? It’s very likely you may well see a two-tier approach for a period of time; possibly days rather than weeks. The bigger operators have much more to lose when it comes to the factors outlined above. Smaller operators could well see this as an opportunity. Plenty of discussions and stock will have been taken over the weekend. I’d suggest a swift discharge from Walter Reed Hospital for President Trump would be a catalyst, however any reported deterioration in his situation would see activations put on ice.
While this Political Joe hopes we see the general market back to the force it was sooner rather than later I do also want to wish President Trump and his extended family a speedy recovery.