If watching the U.S. presidential election can be described as a "rollercoaster," the term certainly applies to the offshore and European gambling markets since polls began closing Tuesday night and votes keep tallying.
With no legal avenue to wager on the election domestically, bookmakers that operate outside of the U.S set the market. Betfair said Wednesday morning it has taken in more than $564 million on the election, making it the European company's most-bet event in four years — since the 2016 election.
In a span of 12 hours, the odds of both candidates — President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — had flipped from odds-on favorite to longshot. As polls closed, Biden, who had been the betting favorite since the first debate Sept. 29, watched his edge sink from roughly 2/5 to a low point of nearly 4-1 by 10 p.m. ET.
Trump's prognosis improved because Florida counted its votes early and broke for him. The same happened in Ohio, and the money began pouring in on Trump from both sharp and recreational bettors.
"The odds totally flipped in the space of 10 minutes," Betfair spokesman Sam Rosbottom said.
Early returns favored the president in key battleground states Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona. Trump hit his peak, close to 1/4, around 10 p.m. too.
As the night progressed, Trump's odds dipped slightly when Biden's strong position in Arizona presented a "lifeline" for his electoral chances, resulting in the odds stabilizing into the early hours of the morning.
"That’s when we sort of saw that resurgence … but nothing crazy really," Rosbottom said. "He didn’t flip the odds."
What Rosbottom and Dustin Gouker of Legal Sports Report estimate is that bettors began to realize votes counted after the initial tally and update — the early ballot results and mail-in votes — favored Biden, which bode well for him in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Once Biden firmed up Wisconsin by some news reports around 4:30 a.m., the odds began shifting back toward Biden and kept rising. Since then, it’s been all Biden at the books, despite some Trump buyback earlier in the afternoon, which has been mostly negated by the Associated Press calling Wisconsin for Biden.
The former vice president hit a crescendo with his odds reaching nearly 1/5 shortly after 10:10 a.m. His chances hadn't moved much by Wednesday afternoon, and he remains a heavy favorite.
"It was unbelievable how it changed," Rosbottom said. "Unprecedented."
The turn of events closely mirrored the two-horse race Betfair ran earlier Tuesday, when "BidenHisTime" won by a nose in a photo-finish over "Super Trump."
The Betfair election market, which includes state-by-state odds and other wagers, will stay live as long as the race appears up for grabs, even if it winds up in front of the Supreme Court.
“Money is still pouring in,” Rosbottom said. “The odds are still swinging ever-so-slightly.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
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