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British Columbia Lottery Taking Bets On U.S. Election

British Columbia Lottery Corporation
Democrat Hillary Clinton is the favorite to become the next U.S. president according to the odds makers advising the British Columbia Lottery.

Bet you didn't know people can bet on the outcome of the presidential election via the lottery. Not our lottery mind you, but the one in British Columbia.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has been taking bets on the 2016 U.S. election since early last year. It's become the most popular wager in an online gaming category the lottery calls "novelty betting."

The provincial lottery contracts with a global sportsbook based in Ireland to set the odds. BC Lottery spokesman Doug Cheng said the odds of a Donald Trump victory have improved since even last week, but the odds makers still favor a Hillary Clinton victory.

"Donald's Trump's odds are currently 37/20 -- in other words, slightly under 2 to 1 -- to become the next president,” Cheng said. “To put it in perspective, he has closed the gap significantly as his initial odds in January 2015 were 100 to 1."

A $5 bet placed on the Democratic nominee Clinton on Monday would pay out $7.10 if she wins in November. The same bet placed on Republican nominee Trump would pay out $14.25 if he wins.

For at least a few more days, Cheng said Canadians can make a long-shot bet on Democrat Bernie Sanders at 59 to 1 odds.

If you're feeling lucky, know that the BC Lottery limits its U.S. election wagers to its own provincial residents over the age of 19.

"You can't bet, but you can definitely vote, which we can't do up here,” Cheng said in telephone interview. “That's a tradeoff I guess.”

The BC Lottery is also taking bets on which political party will triumph in several key battleground states including Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

"We have always paid a lot of attention to American elections because we are such close neighbors," Cheng said from Vancouver. "The media interest was really ramped up on this particular election. I think you see that reflected in the wagers we’re taking on this novelty betting category. I think this really shows that people in B.C. are intently watching the U.S. election south of the border."

The provincial lotteries in Nova Scotia and Manitoba are also offering online wagers on the American presidential election.

Besides traditional state lottery games, the BCLC operates casinos and a sportsbook. British Columbians can bet on Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners games as well as whether the Oregon Ducks, Washington Huskies or some other university team will win next season's college football championship. Bettors can also wager on who will win gold medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics among other things.

In the United States, online gambling is illegal as is betting on elections. Betting on the outcome of sports contests is legal in Nevada. Political betting has been offered in Britain for decades.

BC Lottery profits fund government services and grants to non-profits, much like state lotteries in the United States.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.