Las Vegas oddsmaker installs Biden as favorite to win election

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In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, left, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020.

Sat, Aug 22, 2020 (2 a.m.)

It’s against state gaming regulations to accept wagers on an election. Yet, establishing odds on the race between President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden is a great conversation starter, legendary Las Vegas bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro of the South Point says.

Vaccaro has Biden, who accepted the Democratic nomination Thursday, as a minus-130 favorite for the November election. If wagers were allowed, a $130 bet would pay $100.

“This thing is almost like a sporting event,” Vaccaro said. “What I mean by that is that if a team is playing well, you jack up the money line on them. You jack up the odds. That’s what you’ve seen with the election in the last two to four weeks. Both candidates have an absolute affinity to looking good or looking silly.”

About two months ago, Vaccaro said, some of the offshore bookmakers he follows had Trump as a minus-170 favorite to win the election, and therefore serve out a second term in the White House.

On Thursday, Vaccaro listed Trump as a plus-120 underdog ($100 bet pays $120).

“From now until November, both candidates will have good days and bad days,” said Vaccaro, who has a four-decade career in the bookmaking industry. “It’s going to be fun. I think the debates will be very important. You know it and I know it — people forget about things.”

If Biden, 77, were to win the election, Vaccaro has his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, at 8-to-1 to replace him before November 2024.

National polls seem to agree with Vaccaro’s handicapping, at least at this point in the race. According to FiveThirtyEight, a breakdown of national polling averages this week showed Biden with about an 8-point lead.

But, as Vaccaro points out, Trump was seen as a big underdog in the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 election when he faced off against Hillary Clinton.

“I’d much rather book this than bet it,” Vaccaro said with a chuckle. “That’s how crazy I think it is. I don’t know who will wind up the favorite on the day of the election. Trump could make an outlandish statement, but then Biden might not remember what his wife’s name is. It’s going to be interesting.”

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