Background: My colleague just told me that he reckons Donald Trump's presidency is most likely to end in assassination. My first thought was: "Why not put money on it then?"; my second thought was "Would that be legal?".

From the bookmaker's point of view, taking such a bet would be stupid: if a person stands to win £100,000 from Trump being assassinated, it would give them motivation to pay someone up to that figure to carry out the killing. Further than that, I wonder whether giving someone motivation to kill someone could legally count as inciting someone to murder, which is illegal. Hence why I wonder whether it would be legal for a bookmaker to take such a bet.

As I'm from the UK, I'm mainly interested from the UK legal perspective, but any other international perspective is welcome.

  • 2
    Just for the sake of interest, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, is about a business that makes money by betting on people's deaths. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 19:14
  • Actually, in that book people would bet say £10,000 that their rich uncle will not die, and then someone let's say changes the odds in their favour and makes sure that the person betting loses their bet. So you lose £10,000 and also your rich uncle - but the inheritance would be a bit of consolation.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 13:38
  • Assassination market Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 6:00

1 Answer 1


In general it is illegal to gamble on life. However, you might not even need to go to a bookmaker: A contract that pays money upon the death of a specific person is known commercially as "life insurance."

In order to avoid the moral hazard (or reality) of creating a contract killing market, it has long been illegal to trade life insurance with any person or entity who does not have an "insurable interest" in the insured. (See also: The Insurable Interest Requirement for Life Insurance, by Peter Swisher, who also has a good review of laws and regulations surrounding exceptions to the rule like viaticals and STOLI. Further reading on the subject here.)

I don't know if it has been tested, but I think anyone could argue that they would face a significant financial loss if the U.S. President were killed or died in office: the stock markets plunged on JFK's assassination. Therefore, it could be both legal and possible for anyone to buy life insurance on the U.S. President.

(Note that, in the U.S., the disputes about third-party life insurance have revolved for generations around the tax benefits associated with insurance premiums and benefits. See corporate-owned life insurance (COLI), a.k.a. "janitor's insurance.")

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