What're the odds? Nevada lawmaker wants to allow betting on elections

Published March 28, 2013

| FoxNews.com

These days, it's just the fate of the nation that hinges on presidential elections. But if a Nevada lawmaker gets his way, 20 bucks could be on the line, too.

Las Vegas state Sen. Tick Segerblom this week introduced a bill that would allow betting in his state on federal elections, which currently can't be done in any of the states that allow gambling.

It's something other countries already do, and Segerblom says he wants Nevada to start cashing in on the craze, too.

"They bet on our elections in England. They spend millions of dollars on the presidential elections, and it occurred to me, why don't we have that here?" Segerblom told FOX5 Vegas.

"We're in a competitive environment. We're basically competing against the world, and I think we need to start looking beyond what we've done," he said.

The bill, introduced Monday in the Nevada Senate and referred to committee, would authorize wagers on presidential and congressional elections.

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power is among the most well-known companies overseas placing bets on U.S. elections. It paid out $650,000 on President Obama’s victory last year – after calling the election early.

But David Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Center for Gaming Research, said non-sports betting generates a fraction of the revenue that is generated by gambling on major sports events. Still, he told FOX5 Vegas the novelty could pay off.

"Sports betting markets are generally still the biggest – but we’re seeing more and more people interested in having a punt on a wide range of topics," Paddy Power told FoxNews.com. "For the politics fan, election betting is especially exciting."

"Betting on election outcomes enhances people's interest and engagement in politics and it certainly doesn’t interfere with the political process," Power said.     

Whether betting on federal elections, though, might somehow tarnish the electoral process is another question.

"I suppose it's legal, but it's also tawdry," said Larry Sabato, director at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"Truth is, though, there are loads of informal betting pools on elections anyway," he told FoxNews.com. "Dozens of people have written me to say they just bet my Crystal Ball’s picks and have made money. One young man told me he took his girlfriend to London with the winnings."

FoxNews.com's Cristina Corbin contributed to this report. 

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