President Trump’s COVID-19 Announcement Shakes Up Election Betting Markets

President Donald Trump’s announcement early Friday morning regarding his positive test for COVID-19 triggered sharp movement on U.S. presidential election markets worldwide, prompting one prominent sports betting operator to suspend wagering.

The probability of a Trump victory over former Vice President Joe Biden plunged so significantly on the news that Betfair Exchange operators froze all wagering on election markets in the wee hours of Friday morning. Within hours of the president’s post on Twitter, his odds of winning re-election moved to 2.23 at Betfair (or +223 in American odds), compared with 1.62 prior to the announcement.

While U.S.-based bettors are not allowed to place sports betting-style wagers on the election, the markets are available in numerous other nations around the world.

Earlier on Friday, Trump tweeted that he tested positive for COVID-19, along with his wife, first lady Melania Trump. The announcement came hours after it was revealed that White House aide Hope Hicks also recorded a positive test.

Biden soars to new heights

At Smarkets, a UK-based betting exchange, Biden’s chances of winning the presidency surged on Friday morning to 65.8%, reaching an all-time high. Biden contracts for sale on the exchange carried odds of 1.55, in comparison with Trump tickets, which offered odds of 3.25. Biden gained support after Tuesday’s presidential debate when bettors on the exchange pegged his chances at 63%, up from 55% leading up to the event.

Biden seized the lead at Smarkets in June with a traded price of 51%, as coronavirus concerns around the nation intensified. While Biden’s lead peaked in early August at 28 points, according to Smarkets, Trump cut the deficit by more than half by the end of the month as Biden failed to capitalize on a potential post-convention bump. By Sept. 2, little separated the two candidates on the Smarkets exchange, as Biden maintained a slim one-point advantage.

Trading continued on the exchange early Friday, even as Betfair halted activity.

Betfair also halted trading on a number of secondary markets related to the election.

  • Popular vote winner
  • Trump electoral college votes
  • Biden electoral college votes
  • Republican Party states won
  • Democratic Party states won
  • Candidate to finish third in the popular vote

Slim chances for Pence

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the president’s health, bettors still give Vice President Mike Pence little chance of replacing Trump on the ticket. As of 3:55 a.m. ET, Smarkets bettors pegged Pence’s chances of winning the election at 3.12%. One bettor on Twitter bragged of a wager he placed predicting that Trump will not complete his first term in office. A winning ticket will pay nearly $195 on a $20 bet.

Trump’s announcement caused an immediate sell-off on the overnight futures market. Dow futures plunged 458 points (1.65%) to 27,231, while S&P futures fell 48.75 (1.45%) to 3,319.

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