In Las Vegas, No Bets on Hillary Clinton (Literally)

Around the world people bet on U.S. presidential elections, but not in Vegas.

May 9, 2015, 6:03 AM

— -- The U.S. presidential election is a year and a half away and already thousands of people around the world are putting money on who they think will win the race -- but not in Las Vegas.

Due to a federal law, it’s illegal in the United States -- and yes, even Nevada -- to bet on any elections, national or local.

Some in Nevada, including longtime sports bookie and head oddsmaker for the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Jimmy Vaccaro, are hoping to change that.

“It would be a boon for the state of Nevada if you could bet nationally,” he told ABC News in a recent interview about his push locally to legalize election betting. “It would be the type of money that we write on Superbowl Sunday.”

“It draws attention, it draws money, it draws publicity. We’ve got to get some of it,” he added.

The closest the state got to turning over the law was last year when Nevada state senator Richard Segerblom, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would allow betting in federal elections. The Nevada legislators, however, passed on the bill, and his efforts have since stalled.

Opponents of betting on elections fear that if it were legal it could lead to issues of rigging or could encourage people to vote based on who they put money on instead of who they actually want to win.

Vaccaro, however, said he believes presidential elections are simply "too big” to rig, and said legalizing election betting could alter voter turnout in a good way.

“Less and less people are going to vote," he said. "I’ll tell you one thing ... if you made a bet on your guy, you would go vote too.”


Although it’s illegal here, betting on the U.S. presidential election is on the rise overseas.

According to spokesman Rory Scott, Paddy Power, Ireland’s largest bookmaker, has already taken 6,000 individual bets on the 2016 presidential election, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. In total, Scott expected bets to hit $6 million for the entire election cycle, roughly three times the amount bet on the election four years ago.

“It’s phenomenal,” Scott, who predicted elections could become the biggest non-sporting market in Paddy Power history, told ABC News. “This is by far the most interest we’ve seen.”

The rise of political betting is thought to be largely due to the advent of the 24 hour news cycle and the increase of polling.

“The amount of information is vastly more…people now feel like they have an advantage over the bookmaker,” Scott explained.


So how are the announced and potential 2016 candidates ranking so far?

According to an average of about 30 of the UK’s biggest sports books, Hillary Clinton is currently the leader at 1 to 1 odds, or even money; Jeb Bush is second with 4 to 1 odds; and Rubio is third with 7 to 1 odds. (The list even includes names like Clint Eastwood, currently at 1,000 to 1, and George Clooney, 500 to 1.)

Like politics, bookmakers say a lot can change, and despite Clinton’s strong lead now it doesn't mean she's the clear winner.

“History will tell you that favorite very rarely wins,” Scott said. Even Bill Clinton, he notes, was at 25 to 1 odds at this same time during his presidential campaign.

For instance, Jimmy Vaccaro noticed Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is drawing a lot of attention too.

“This kid has really caught fire the last month at a half,” Vaccaro said. “He was as high as 11 to 1 in some of the sports books over there. In most of them he’s down to 7 to 1.”

On the flip-side, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie –who right now has 25 to 1 odds, down from 10 to 1 – is losing money.

“Politics is a crazy business. We’ll see what happens in the next few months,” Vaccaro said.

Even so, if Vaccaro were to bet on anything right now, he said he would put his money on a race between Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton.

But, he hasn’t.

“I haven’t, because it’s illegal," he explained with a smirk.