West Virginia Shuts Down Election Wagering
FanDuel's election betting lasted about two hours on April 7. Officials claim the West Virginia Lottery approved the launch but Secretary of State Mac Warner said "somebody jumped the gun." FanDuel's launch would have been the first legal betting on the U.S. election.
Within about two hours, FanDuel Sportsbook’s presidential wagering came and went. Company officials said they had received approval from the West Virginia Lottery on Tuesday, April 7 to offer betting on the November presidential election. But FanDuel abruptly dropped the market after hearing being notified by West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner. “I do not know the exact facts, but I can tell you it’s illegal, somebody jumped the gun, nobody should be betting on presidential elections in West Virginia or anywhere,” Warner said.
He added, “Gambling on elections has been illegal in West Virginia since 1868. Gambling on the outcome of an election has no place in our American democracy. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. This is a terrible idea. Let’s shut this down right now and be very clear about it.” Warner said his office plans to investigate the sequence of events.
Governor Jim Justice, whose family owns the Greenbrier, where FanDuel operates, said he was unaware of the situation until later. He commented, “I thought, you know, are you kidding me? The first thing that came to my mind was, you know, what next? It’s humorous but it’s ridiculous.”
Within a few hours of announcing presidential wagering, FanDuel issued a follow-up 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.” The lottery followed with this statement: “The markets were initially approved, however the West Virginia Lottery has asked FanDuel to refrain from offering the markets until we have time to fully work through the implications and research it further.”
If FanDuel’s launch were allowed to continue, it would have been the first legal betting on the U.S. election. It had President Donald Trump as a slight favorite over Democrat Joe Biden.
FanDuel released information on the categories in which it would take bets if it’s ultimately allowed to accept election wagers in West Virginia:
- Winner of 2020 Election (Trump -110, Biden +125)
- Democratic Nomination (Biden -714, Cuomo +1400, Sanders +1600)
- Democratic Vice Presidential Nomination (Harris +188, Klobuchar +400)
- Presidential Election 2020 – Winning Party (Republican -125, Democrat -110)
- State by State Winning Party
However, election betting seems to be illegal under the West Virginia Code, which states, “It shall be unlawful to bet or wager money or other thing of value on any election held in this state.” It defines an election as “every general, primary or special election held in this state, or in any of its subdivisions, for the purpose of nominating or electing federal or state officers.”
Legal writer John Holden noted, “Wagering on political markets is explicitly prohibited by statute in a number of states, and most states have found it incompatible with public policy in a number of other places.”
South Point sportsbook in Las Vegas posted 2020 election odds for entertainment purposes only. Oddsmaker Jimmy Vacarro said wagers will not be accepted on them.