This question came up during a discussion with some friends after I placed a bet on a certain candidate (let's call him T) winning an upcoming presidential election in a Western country, call it USA. It was pointed out that I may have (inadvertently and infinitesimally) helped T: Due to the dynamics of a betting market the next person placing a similar bet will be offered (very slightly) worse odds, which is indistinguishable from the market believing that the chances of T winning just went (very slightly) up. In a way, this is very similar to stating that I would vote for T when asked in a poll.

The question now arises: Would it be legal for T to place a massive bet for himself (thus skewing the betting market)? Would it make a difference if it was known what his motives were (i.e., skewing the marked against just being convinced of his victory and wanting to make a profit)? Could he bet he would lose the election? Could T suggest to his voters they should place such bets?

(It seems very analogous to bribing people to vote for T in polls, so intuition tells me no. At the same time, why would they be forbidden from placing a bet anyone else is allowed to place?)

Edit to clarify: The question originally applies to online betting, e.g., on betfair. I would be most interested, however, in knowing if there exists a betting market where a presidential candidate could place such a bet.

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    "In a way, this is very similar to stating that I would vote for T when asked in a poll." This is not true as when you place a bet you are saying that you think that person will win, not that you support them. Polls are about who you want to win. want to win =/= think will win. Nov 2, 2016 at 11:45
  • @TopherBrink but once you've placed the bet, you have a financial interest in that candidate winning.
    – phoog
    Nov 2, 2016 at 14:51
  • @phoog true but what value do you put on the money vs the candidate who you want to win, winning. Additionally voting is a better way of showing your voice even if the person you vote for is highly unlikely to win. in the uk MPs have taken note of the high UKIP vote even though only one UKIP candidate got a seat. So betting on a sure thing election means you win the bet but you can still show your voice by voting whatever way you want and betting against your candidate softens the blow of them loosing. Nov 2, 2016 at 15:31

1 Answer 1


It depends on the rules of the particular betting market and the laws under which it operates.

Assuming that the bet itself is legal, it is not uncommon that participants in the contest are not allowed to bet, not because they distort the market, but because they can influence the outcome. Consider if instead of betting to win, Mr Trump bet on himself to lose and then do something which would reduce his chances (hard to imaging what he could do that he hasn't done but anyway).

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    Shoeless Joe Trump
    – user662852
    Nov 2, 2016 at 3:09
  • It seems that this isn't uncommon in horse betting when you can bet on a horse not winning. The owner bets that his horse isn't going to win, even though it is the favourite, and guess what, the horse loses!
    – gnasher729
    Nov 2, 2016 at 8:47
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    @gnasher729 it is illegal to make your hose loose to win a bet but if you were to bet against your own horse could also be seen that you are hedging your bets, if your horse wins, you get the prize money, if you loose you win your bet, it becomes a win win situation. Nov 2, 2016 at 15:37
  • "shoeless"...priceless, user! (Good ole Shoeless Joe Jackson) Nov 2, 2016 at 22:23

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