Political gambling has a murky future. Want to bet on it?


Politics is full of bold, outlandish predictions. The really confident ones can put their money where their mouths are — literally — on political market sites like PredictIt.

PredictIt is a website that is not dissimilar to a stock market for politics. Betters can buy “shares” on a particular political outcome, like who will be the GOP nominee. As of Sunday afternoon, Trump winning the nod sits at a 58 cent bet. Should the former president win, every Trump yes share gets a dollar, and every Trump no share gets nothing. Like any good market-based betting, it’s a good indicator of what a group of people think might happen, even if it’s not ultimately right.

Though bets are limited to $850 on PredictIt, it and other political market sites have attracted a mix of eclectic hardcore traders who make real money obsessively moving shares, more casual users who put up a few bucks and, yes, even political professionals.

But as sites like PredictIt became more popular, they’re attracting scrutiny from the federal government. This time last year, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — the federal agency that ended up with oversight of the industry — yanked a letter that effectively allowed PredictIt to operate “for academic purposes only.”

The platform sued, and late last month scored a significant victory in the Fifth Circuit that effectively preserves the status quo for now, letting the site continue to operate.

That, however, is not the last word. While the PredictIt fight rumbles through the court, another platform — Kalshi — has asked the CFTC to bless a plan to launch election markets on congressional control on a far larger scale, like theoretically allowing some Wall Street firms to wager millions. But there have been few signs over the last year that the agency’s longstanding concerns about the markets running afoul of the “public interest” have been addressed. Perhaps more critically, the fight has escaped out of the wonky confines of a financial regulatory body, and is now attracting the attention of prominent members of Congress, including Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

For the market’s detractors, there is concern that election wagering could become the next speculative trading frenzy, à la crypto and meme stocks. But the fears run deeper, too. Investor advocates, government watchdog groups and progressives warn that the markets could fuel questions about the integrity and foundation of U.S. elections.

“Kalshi is going to unleash billions — if not tens of billions — of dollars in betting on what will ultimately be every election in the country, from the presidency to the local dog catcher,” said Better Markets CEO Dennis Kelleher, who advocates for stricter oversight of Wall Street.

Proponents of the industry argue that their critics, although well intentioned, have it all wrong. Instead of eroding confidence in elections, they say, prediction markets actually increase it by providing more information to the public by giving an avenue to forecast outcomes — or, at least, let people make a financial hedge against a political outcome they don’t like.

“Polls and focus groups are very valuable if you want to get behind why people think the way they do or why they act the way they do,” said John Phillips, the CEO of PredictIt’s operating company. “Prediction markets are very effective — and more effective than a lot of polling — in forecasting ahead of time what is likely to happen.”

Even so, the future of political markets remains uncertain, as they have gotten increasingly more popular. (Phillips told Score that there’s at least 80,000 people who have at least some money in their PredictIt accounts.) PredictIt’s legal fight will continue, and the attention of Congress has some proponents believing that the CFTC will be less likely to go along with the industry at large. But, supporters say, the markets have momentum — with or without government approval.

“I think that it’s not a question as to whether these markets will exist,” Phillips said. “This activity is either going to be safe and regulated and produce useful research and accurate forecasting and be transparent and fair if it’s regulated, or it’s going to take place offshore … where there’s no regulation, no consumer protection, no transparency.”

Good Monday morning. A huge thank you to Declan ([email protected]; @declanharty), our capital markets reporter, for teaming up for today’s topline.

As for me? Parting is such sweet sorrow. This last week has been fun, but Madison ([email protected]; @madfernandez616) returns tomorrow to take back the helm of Score. You can still reach me at [email protected] or @ZachMontellaro.

Days until the Mississippi primary: 1

Days until the RI-01 and UT-02 special election primaries: 29

Days until the Louisiana primary: 68

Days until the 2023 election: 92

Days until the Republican National Convention: 343

Days until the Democratic National Convention: 378

Days until the 2024 election: 456

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IT’S LIKE DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN — President Joe Biden’s orbit is increasingly preparing for a rematch with former President Donald Trump — and warning it won’t be an easy contest. POLITICO’s Myah Ward digs in to how Democrats feel about the Trump campaign, noting that “despite the mounting legal troubles facing the former president, Democrats have noticed that Trump’s campaign, led by longtime GOP operatives Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, is more organized and disciplined than ever.”

… Related: After being outclassed in nominating convention delegate wrangling in 2016, Trump’s team is making sure that doesn’t happen to him again. POLITICO’s Rachael Bade has a dive “into the myriad ways Trump’s team has worked behind the scenes to ensure delegate selection rules play to their favor — or, in their rivals’ telling, to ‘rig’ the system.”

TRAIL MIX — Biden is hitting the road this week, touting “Bidenomics” to the public as the economy continues to improve. He’ll be in Arizona on Tuesday, New Mexico on Wednesday and Utah on Thursday, with other administration officials also fanning out across the country.

Even so, Americans are broadly still pessimistic about the economy. But those close to the president have one message: Trust the plan, and the positive message will pay off in the long run, POLITICO’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports.

… WMUR, the New Hampshire TV station that is a major draw during the primaries, aired its candidate town hall with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday.

DONOR DASH — Some donors overlooked DeSantis’ habit of picking fights with major corporations when he looked like a threat to Trump. But with his recent struggles, “big business is starting to show signs of irritation,” POLITICO’s Sally Goldenberg and Gary Fineout write.

ON THE WORLD’S STAGE — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a surprise trip to Ukraine, meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Read more from The Washington Post’s Maeve Reston, who was on the ground with Christie in Kyiv.

ON THE DEBATE STAGE — Republican Perry Johnson, the self-described “quality guru” who is running a longshot campaign for the presidential nomination, announced over the weekend that he had hit the requisite 40,000 donors to qualify for the first primary debate later this month. He isn’t close on the polling threshold, however. Check out our tracking here.

PRIMARY PROBLEMS? — Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) didn’t commit to a primary bid against Biden on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, but urged others to do so. “My call is to those who are well positioned, well prepared, have good character and competency — they know who they are — to jump in, because Democrats and the country need competition,” he said. Read more from POLITICO’s Kelly Garrity.

ENDORSEMENT CORNER — More endorsements are flowing in for Trump. The entire Alabama House delegation has backed his campaign, POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt scooped, along with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and other statewide electeds. Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) and Gov. Kay Ivey have not endorsed in the primary.

SO FANCY — Kentucky politicos flocked to Fancy Farm over the weekend, with the battle for the governorship this November taking center stage in the biggest political event of the year in the state. The Louisville Courier Journal’s Joe Sonka has five takeaways from the speeches from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and state GOP Attorney General Daniel Cameron, his challenger, where he notes there were not “many big surprises” but a raucous crowd.

… Our own Steve Shepard has a step-back piece on Kentucky, laying out five lessons that this year’s governor’s race could tell us about the future of both parties.

BUCKEYE BRAWL — We’re a day away from a major vote in Ohio on a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments, which is widely seen as a proxy fight between pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion groups. Early voting turnout has been incredibly strong. Through Thursday, the most recent numbers available from the secretary of state, over 578,000 Ohioans have already voted, tracking well ahead of recent midterm primary election early voting. Early voting ended on Sunday.

This August special election — where this proposal, Issue 1, is the only thing on the ballot — comes ahead of a November election that is looking to codify abortion rights into the state constitution. Read Madison’s story from late last month on the fight over Issue 1, and on Tuesday you can get the results from POLITICO as they come in. (We’ll also have Mississippi results on Tuesday as well.)

PRETTY PLEASE? — Democrats are upping their push to get former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) to challenge Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) next year. POLITICO’s Gary Fineout reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has talked to Mucarsel-Powell about a run, while prominent Latino Democrats are publicly encouraging her to get in.

HOW MANY IS TOO MANY? — Two of the three GOP candidates running in the special election in UT-02 to replace GOP Rep. Chris Stewart met for their first and second debates on Friday and Saturday. There are ten (ten!) total debates planned between Celeste Maloy, a former aide to Stewart, and former state party chair Bruce Hough. The AP’s Sam Metz has coverage of the Friday debate and the Desert News’ Brigham Tomco of the Saturday faceoff, with the next one scheduled for Monday. It is unclear if Becky Edwards, the third candidate in the race, will participate ahead of the Sept. 5 primary.

NOT SO FAST — Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) rolled out a slate of endorsements from Democratic leaders, POLITICO reported last week. But pro-abortion rights groups want to let the only anti-abortion Democrat left in the House know he isn’t off the hook, with Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America issuing a joint statement on Friday. The groups criticized Cuellar and said “our organizations continue to hold those in office accountable and will continue to work tirelessly to support reproductive rights champions at all levels of government.” Our own Brittany Gibson reported in May that progressive groups were eager to put up another challenger to Cuellar after he won a primary by a couple hundred votes in 2022, but so far no candidate has stepped forward to face him.

THANKS, BUT NO THANKS — After floating a last-minute entry into the race, New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams, a Democrat, is passing on a gubernatorial run, The New Orleans Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reported.

GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD — Progressives in New York City are plotting ways to try to defeat Democratic Mayor Eric Adams in 2025, The New York Times’ Emma Fitzsimmons, Nicholas Fandos and Jeffery Mays reported. Those looking for an alternative include members of the Working Families Party and former aides to Adams’ predecessor Bill de Blasio.

— KY-Gov: Cameron is set to roll out his first general election TV ad. In an email to supporters, he blasted out an ad that featured his stump speech attacking Beshear. AdImpact tracked a $475,000 buy for the attorney general starting on Tuesday.

CAUCUS TIME — Trump holds a big lead in a recent Iowa poll, but the margin is still smaller than most national surveys. In the recent New York Times/Siena College survey in the Hawkeye State, Trump is at 44 percent to 20 percent for DeSantis. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is at 9 percent, businessperson Vivek Ramaswamy is at 5 percent, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is at 4 percent, former Vice President Mike Pence is at 3 percent and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is at 1 percent (July 28-Aug. 1; 432 likely Iowa GOP caucusgoers; +/- 5.9 percentage point MoE).

RIGHTS RESTORATION? — A panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit struck down Mississippi’s lifetime disenfranchisement for people convicted of certain felonies, finding it to be unconstitutional because it is “a cruel and unusual punishment.” You can read the decision here, and more on the ruling from Mississippi Today’s Bobby Harrison.

CAN’T DO THAT — A Texas man who threatened Maricopa County, Ariz., election officials in 2022 was sentenced to three-and-a-half-years in federal prison, the Department of Justice announced. The man, Frederick Francis Goltz, pleaded guilty in April.

CODA: QUOTE OF THE DAY — “We need one more indictment to close out this election.” — Trump at a Friday fundraiser for the Alabama Republican Party.

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