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Bettors In British Columbia Have Big Money Riding On U.S. Election

British Columbia Lottery Corporation
Bettors in British Columbia have big money riding on next week's U.S. election.

Canadian residents generally can't vote in our election, but they can gamble on the outcome through several provincial lotteries. And the bets are piling up.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation runs an online betting site, mostly devoted to sports. Starting last year, it has offered wagers on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. And boy did that take off, said BC Lottery spokesman Doug Cheng on Thursday from Vancouver, Canada.

"The presidential election is actually now the most popular betting event of any kind on our website,” he said.

Cheng said bettors in B.C. have wagered more than $533,000 Canadian dollars (US $398,000) on U.S. politics.

"It has surpassed every event in the last three years including the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup finals -- in Canada no less,” he said.

The provincial lottery contracts with a global sportsbook based in Ireland to set the odds. Cheng says Hillary Clinton has consistently been the favorite, but Donald Trump's formerly long odds have improved.

A $1 bet placed Thursday on Clinton would pay $1.34 if she wins next week. A dollar placed on Trump would pay off $2.75 if he comes out on top.

Cheng said there are at least two ways of looking at who bettors are backing.

"More bets have been placed in B.C. on Donald Trump to become the next president. But with that said, more money has been wagered on Hillary Clinton to become president," Cheng explained. "Both candidates are getting quite a bit of action."

One way to analyze the approximately CA$142,000 wagered on Trump is that many gamblers are making small bets in hopes of a big payoff. The safer bet on Clinton has attracted the larger sum, approximately CA$243,000.

Cheng said two B.C. residents have placed CA$6,000 bets on a Clinton victory, the single biggest wagers. The biggest individual bet on Trump is CA$4,000, with odds fixed at 31 to 20 at the time the wager was placed.

"It's a fun way for British Columbians to take part in the event because most of us can't vote," Cheng observed. "But I guess in this case we can place bets."

"In B.C. and in Canada in general, we have always paid a lot of attention to the United States presidential election just because what happens in the States will affect what happens here because we are such close partners," he continued.

"This is a sign that British Columbians are intensely watching the U.S. election unfold, especially this one with sort of a so-called Hollywood factor that we haven't seen in other elections."

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. You have to be a British Columbia resident to place online election wagers through the BC Lottery.

While most of the attention is focused naturally on the race for the presidency, Canadian lotteries offer a variety of other bets related to next week's election.

Bettors can also wager on which party will win control of the U.S. Senate -- the odds currently favor a Democratic takeover. You can even wager on how many Electoral College votes Clinton or Trump will amass. The odds suggest a fairly narrow victory for Clinton.

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.