FanDuel WV Yanks Presidential Betting After Legal Concerns
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FanDuel in West Virginia became the first U.S. sportsbook to post political odds on Tuesday night but abruptly took them down two hours later at the request of regulators after questions arose about whether state law allowed for political betting.
The West Virginia Lottery, which oversees gambling in the state, asked FanDuel to take down the odds pending further study.
FanDuel did take down the odds and released the following statement:
"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 spokesman also said the company would not comment further on conversations with regulators.
Betting odds on the 2020 presidential election had gone live early Tuesday night. The news came as college and pro sports are essentially shut down for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidelines.
FanDuel’s West Virginia site had listed President Donald Trump as a -110 favorite to win a second term in office. Former Vice President and leading Democratic candidate Joe Biden was a slight underdog at +125, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was third at +2200 before the odds were taken down.
FanDuel, DraftKings and other operators have expanded options in recent years to include a select few pre-scripted events, like the Academy Awards, but legal betting on U.S. political races is unprecedented and unexpected less than two years after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional Amateur and Sports Protection Act and gave individual states authority to legalize sports gambling.
“While we are excited about the possibility of offering odds on politics and elections to our customers in West Virginia, we are taking the time to ensure we evaluate the opportunity thoroughly before posting any lines," Matt Kalish, co-founder and president of DraftKings North America, said in a statement.
The premature unveiling of the odds suggests this was a reactionary move from FanDuel with the NBA, NHL, MLB and pretty much every sport other than table tennis and horse racing off the board. Sportsbooks have been hurting for options amid the coronavirus shutdown. FanDuel is even hosting free daily fantasy sports contests on video game simulations of NFL games.
RELATED: Daily Presidential Odds Tracker
Political Betting Big Overseas
Political betting has long been legal in England and sportsbooks like Ladbrokes and 888Sports’ UK-facing site routinely take bets on political races all over the world, including in the U.S. – 888sports has also listed Trump as a -110 favorite in recent weeks, with Biden at +110.
U.S. sportsbooks may have eventually followed suit, but no one expected it this quickly with so many states still figuring out rules, legislation, licensing and partnerships.
Extraordinary circumstances may have prompted FanDuel’s push in West Virginia. April is usually rich with sports betting options including the NBA and NHL playoffs, the start of the MLB regular season and the Masters. All have been postponed, leaving few if any legal options for sports bettors.