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Punters bet on Trump winning second term

NEW YORK • For the time being, all the polls seem to be going Mr Joe Biden’s way ahead of the Nov 3 presidential election.

But gamblers see a different reality and are putting their money on President Donald Trump. The Republican incumbent, who is seeking a second term, has slowly climbed back in the polls since late July to nearly even with the Democratic former vice-president.

For some Australian and British bookmakers, Mr Trump is the odds-on favourite. Betting on national or local elections is illegal in the United States. All the action is happening on foreign gambling sites – which Americans can sometimes access.

A US$100 (S$136) wager on a Trump win today could bring the punter a return of US$190 if he notches the victory.

“There is no doubt that the momentum appears to have swung back into President Trump’s favour,” said Mr Rupert Adams, a spokesman for British bookmaker William Hill, which has already accepted more than US$1.3 million in election bets.

Mr Lee Price, a spokesman for Irish gambling brand Paddy Power, said that after a slowdown in betting activity due to the coronavirus crisis, interest has “started to pick up again in recent weeks”.

“We think the Trump factor is sure to keep punters interested,” Mr Price said.

Many who have placed their bets on Mr Trump are hoping for a repeat of 2016, when the Manhattan real estate mogul staged a stunning comeback against Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton to win the White House.

British bookmaker Betfair has taken in £10 million (S$18 million) in bets on the White House race since Aug 23, the eve of the Republican nominating convention. That brings their total so far to £72 million, against £33 million at the same point in the campaign in 2016.

Betfair is hoping to top the record of £199 million wagered in 2016, half of which came after polling stations closed, said spokesman Darren Hughes.

Beyond the main event, Paddy Power is taking bets on some quirky issues: will Mr Trump paint the White House gold (500-1)? Will he have an airport in Mexico named after him (66-1)?

But Mr Price said the interest in those types of bets has waned a bit. “Trump is less wacky, quirky, and funny,” Mr Price said, calling the President’s current behaviour “just plain scary”.

VOTERS’ ENTHUSIASM

The polls may be of ‘likely voters’ and show Biden winning. But what about voters’ enthusiasm for their candidate (which correlates with turnout)? Trump is winning that battle by huge margins.

MR NICK FREILING, the chief executive of a market research firm who has bet US$300 on a Trump victory in traditionally Democratic Minnesota.

Mr Matthew Collins, a 29-year-old Australian sales consultant, placed 21 separate bets before the Republican convention – nearly all of them on Mr Trump. He not only picked the President to win again in November, but also as the winner of several specific states.

In all, he put down about A$20,000 (S$19,900) – a sum he won on a bet that Mr Biden would choose Ms Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Mr Collins, who described himself as politically left-leaning, felt that Mr Trump has gained momentum since his party’s convention late month, which came on the heels of the Democrats’ event.

Mr Nick Freiling, the chief executive of a market research firm, has bet US$300 on a Trump victory in traditionally Democratic Minnesota. He said it is normal for the gap between the candidates to narrow as the election approaches.

The coronavirus crisis is another major factor, he said – Mr Trump faced sharp criticism for his handling of the pandemic, but the issue “is steadily falling out of our public consciousness, and people are less angry about things, generally”.

For Mr Freiling, “the polls may be of ‘likely voters’ and show Biden winning”. He added: But what about voters’ enthusiasm for their candidate (which correlates with turnout)? Trump is winning that battle by huge margins.”

“Watch where the money goes,” Mr Collins said, predicting that Mr Trump will dominate his three debates with Mr Biden. “That’s what people really care about.” Those with skin in the betting game are also keeping an eye on the likely massive proportion of votes cast by mail this year, due to coronavirus concerns – a potential game changer. “That feels like a situation that could get very messy,” Mr Collins said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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