Sites taking bets on debate politics as pols debate online gambling

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 26, 2016…..The 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said, “There is no gambling like politics.” If Disraeli were to find himself in 2016, when bettors have an opportunity to place wagers on daily fantasy sports contests and while a presidential election has captivated the country, perhaps he’d suggest there is no gambling like gambling on politics.

With Monday night’s debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump expected to be the most widely viewed debate in TV history, Vegas bookmakers have set odds on everything from which candidate will see their position in the polls improve most to the color of Trump’s tie. And Massachusetts gamblers can get in on the action.

If you fancy a wager, the online sportsbook Bovada offers at least eight different bets for Monday night’s debate. Even though it is going head-to-head with Monday Night Football on ESPN, the presidential debate is the heavy favorite to have a higher Nielsen rating. A $100 bet on more viewers tuning in for the debate would return only $4, while a $100 bet on MNF attracting more viewers would yield $1,000.

Players can also bet on whether Trump will call Clinton a liar, whether Clinton will say “bigot” or “bigotry” or “deplorable,” and whether Trump will refer to Clinton as “Crooked Hillary.”

Online gaming has become a perennial, unresolved topic of debate on Beacon Hill, where lawmakers are more accustomed to mulling over the rules and impacts of brick-and-mortar casinos and the state Lottery.

On its website, Bovada says it is “100% certified” and “fully authorized to carry out interactive gaming and gaming associated activities.” Its terms of service document tells bettors that users are “solely responsible for confirming and ensuring your compliance with any local prohibitions and/or regulations that may be applicable to your activities on the website, including those of your country or jurisdiction of residence.”

A Bovada customer service representative on Monday morning confirmed to the News Service that the online sportsbook accepts players from Massachusetts.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office did not provide a clear answer on the legality of using websites like Bovada — which uses a domain based in Latvia — to place bets on things like a presidential debate.

Healey’s office referred the News Service to two state laws — one that prohibits “organizing or promoting gambling facilities or services” and a second that deals with the “buying or selling (of) pools, upon the result of a trial or contest of skill, speed or endurance of man, beast, bird or machine, or upon the result of a game, competition, political nomination, appointment or election.”

Bovada also notes on its website that while “some of the legal issues surrounding online gambling in the US can be a bit of a grey area the current situation is that banking transactions between financial institutions and betting sites are considered illegal.”

Not to scare away potential bettors, the site also adds that “no individual American has ever been arrested, indicted or prosecuted under Federal laws for gambling online.”

So players comfortable with their own odds can on Monday get 2/1 odds that Trump will complain about the fairness of moderator Lester Holt and could get 6/1 odds that Trump will bring up the topic of former President Bill Clinton’s infidelity during the debate, according to SportsBettingDime.com. The same site gives even odds that San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who has knelt for the National Anthem before 49ers games this season, will be mentioned during the debate.

PredictIt, a website that calls itself a “real-money political prediction market,” allows users to buy ‘stock’ in various predictions related to the debate.

For example, one share of a ‘yes’ prediction that Trump will use the phrase “Crooked Hillary” during the debate was trading for 36 cents Monday morning. If Trump utters those words, all shares pay out $1. Shares of the prediction that moderator Holt will ask a question about Clinton’s assertion that some Trump supporters fall into a “basket of deplorables” were trading Monday at 29 cents and would also pay out $1.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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