How the 2020 Presidential Election Odds Have Changed

| October 29, 2020 1:04 pm PDT
2020 US Presidential Election Odds

Election day is almost upon us. Millions of votes have already been cast for the US Presidential election, of course, either through early voting or mail-in ballots. But Tuesday, November 3 will see the election campaign ending and the counting of votes beginning.

All the polls show that Joe Biden is set to beat Donald Trump and become the 46th President of the United States of America. But anyone who remembers the 2016 election will recall that Hillary Clinton was in a similar position four years ago – and we all know what happened then.

With the traditional method of gauging the nation’s mood using polls not regarded as a definitive indicator after the last Presidential election – and other votes such as the Brexit referendum in the UK – more and more people are looking to the betting markets for a truer sense of how things will go.

With that in mind, I decided to follow the odds at two trusted US sportsbooks to see how they were pricing the race. From 50 days before election day I have recorded how the odds have shifted and the reasons behind the movements.

Although the odds and polls both suggest a Biden victory, very few political commentators are calling the election at the current time – and analyzing the odds may be able to tell us why.

Shifting Election Odds

The first thing to note is that since the middle of September both MyBookie and BetOnline have both made Joe Biden the odds on favorite, with Donald Trump trailing. The latest odds (at the time of writing) are as follows.

BetOnline – Odds to Win 2020 US Presidential Election

Joe Biden-200
Donald Trump+175

MyBookie – 2020 US Presidential Election Winner

Joe Biden-170
Donald Trump+130

It is very noticeable that even though this would seem to be a betting market where sportsbooks would have fairly similar prices, the odds offered by MyBookie and BetOnline are remarkably different for the same outcomes. BetOnline is the more attractive, whatever your political persuasion or betting preference. But they both agree that Joe Biden is the overwhelming favorite to win the election and become the next US President.

But there has also been a quite distinct shift in odds for both candidates over the last month or so. When I first started recording the betting odds data, Trump was +110 with BetOnline to win the election and Biden was priced at -130. As you can see, Biden still had a fairly healthy lead but the gap between the two was much shorter.

Betting markets are affected in a number of ways and with such a high-profile campaign it was only natural that the markets would change in the run up to election day. This has been the case this year – and there were some very obvious reasons behind the change in the odds during the campaign.

The First Debate

Although a lot was happening in the campaign throughout the last few weeks in September, it was noticeable that the odds for both candidates were not moving in any meaningful manner. Trump stayed at around +110, while Biden was offered at +130. That all changed after the first debate.

It is widely regarded that the first debate between Trump and Biden on September 29 was a low point for US politics. Both candidates shouted over the moderator – and each other – as things looked to get very ugly in Cleveland, Ohio. The media and public response was uniform in its disgust for the way both men conducted themselves. But it did affect the betting markets.

Joe Biden’s odds were shortened to -150 with BetOnline, while Trumps lengthened to +130. Not the biggest shift perhaps, but it was very noticeable that the outcome of the debate was seen as Trump’s fault.

This was the first time in the last 50 days that the gap between the two grew – and it never returned to what it was before that first televised meeting.

Just a few days later Donald Trump was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and the betting markets were temporarily suspended before coming back the next day almost identical to what they had been after that first debate.

The Cancelled Second Debate and the Vice Presidential Debate

With Donald Trump – and many of his inner circle – contracting the virus, there was immediately concerns about whether the second debate would go ahead at all. One of the more noticeable factors throughout the campaign has been the two candidate’s very different attitudes to COVID-19 and questions over the way a live televised debate could go ahead forced it to be canceled.

But before any more debates between Trump and Biden, there was already a Vice Presidential debate scheduled between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. These debates are not always as important in the grand scheme of things and the gap between the odds for the Presidential candidates had stretched quite a few days before.

In the end, the thing that most people remember from the Vice Presidential debate was the fly that made its home in Mike Pence’s hair for what seemed an inordinate amount of time.

The odds had changed slightly in Biden’s favor but it seemed the final debate between the candidates could have more of an effect.

The ‘Third’ Presidential Debate

By the time the third debate came around on October 22, BetOnline had Biden at -200 to win the election and Trump was priced at +175. MyBookie was still a little more conservative at -160 and +120 respectively.

There was a sense that Trump would only be considered the winner of the debate in most people’s eyes if Biden had some kind of meltdown or came out with one of his untimely gaffes. Neither occurred in what was a more sedate affair than previous meetings. With more controls put in place to stop either man from interrupting or talking over his opponent, the debate was largely forgettable and that was reflected in the minuscule change in odds the next day.

Biden had just about won both events but the betting markets were not really affected.

Where Are We Now?

The betting markets at both BetOnline and MyBookie have stabilized again as we get ever closer to polling day. Although Donald Trump is still out campaigning in the way we have become accustomed to, he is doing little to alter the way that the bookmakers see the election panning out.

Although Trump confounded the polls and the odds in 2016 it should be said that the gap between the two candidates was not as big as it is now. There is more money being bet on Trump to win – as was the case four years ago – but that can probably be put down to bettors hoping that history will repeat itself and the greater returns promised from a Trump wager.

The US election process does mean that the popular vote – the actual number of individual votes – doesn’t necessarily determine the winner. With the Electoral College deciding the number of votes each state provides to each candidate, it is entirely possible that Joe Biden could end up with more votes nationwide and still not win the election. This has actually been the scenario in two of the last five elections, including Trump’s victory in 2016.

That is why, although the betting markets are the best way to predict how the 2020 US Presidential election will go, they are not a guaranteed indicator of its outcome. The results in a number of swing states are crucial to who will win or lose and there are some excellent articles on this website that explain how those races are going.

By this time next week, the campaign will be over and the counting of votes will have begun. It looks like we will have a new US President according to the betting markets. But they have been wrong before.

If you’re looking to have a wager on the outcome yourself, check out our guide to betting on the 2020 Presidential Election.

Dan Roberts

Dan Roberts is an experienced freelance writer specialising in sports and sports betting. He is particularly knowledgeable about world soccer, but also writes about football, basketball and cricket.

As a fan of Nottingham Forest, New York Knicks, Minnesota Vikings and New York Mets, Dan has not had much to celebrate recently.

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