Vegas, polls, traders try their hand at picking the next president

Photo: Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America Photo: Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America

Who will win the White House in next week’s election?

Maybe another famous “house” knows something the rest of us don’t.


As is said in Las Vegas, “the house always wins,” and online betting oddsmakers are taking action on the presidential election in one of a variety of ways that can be used to try to predict the outcome.

Along with varying gambling websites, people looking for a leg up on next week’s presidential winner can turn to a variety of places, including media and academic polls and the online prediction market Intrade.

The Gamblers

Depending on where you look, varying sites have Obama from a 1-to-3 to a 1-to-2 favorite over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.


Here are a few key odds: Obama is a -260 favorite (meaning a person must wager $260 in order to win $100) while Romney is a +200 underdog (meaning a person must bet $100 in order to win $200). Obama is again a -260 favorite while Romney is getting 2.2-to-1 odds. Obama has 1-to-3 odds while Romney is a 2 ¼ to 1 underdog. The site features the closest odds of our examples with Obama a -220 favorite while Romney is a +180 underdog.

So what does all this mean? Does Vegas know anything special?

One Vegas alum thinks Mitt Romney is a slam-dunk, despite being seen as the oddmakers’ underdog. From former presidential candidate and 2008 Libertarian vice presidential nominee, career oddsmaker Wayne Allyn Root writes:

Mitt Romney will win the Presidency, and it won’t be close.

I’m predicting a 5 to 7 point popular vote victory. With an outside shot at 10 points. Electorally it won’t be that close. Romney will win many states that went to Obama in 2008. I’m predicting Romney victories in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Indiana. I predict a Romney victory by 100 to 120 electoral votes…

In the days before the first Presidential debate, polls showed Romney trailing badly in most of those states. But, as I’ve argued from day one, the polls were always wrong. They are badly skewed towards Democrats. Quite simply they are over-polling Democratic voters and assuming a turnout that looks like 2008, when record numbers of Democrats came out for Obama. The turnout on November 6th will look nothing like 4 years ago.


The Pollsters

A review of the political wonk website shows a different, more tightly-contested story. The site has Romney as a 47.6 percent to 47.4 percent favorite over Obama in an average of all the site’s polls.

The polls also show Romney with a five-point lead in the Gallup poll and a two-point lead in the Rasmussen Reports poll. RCP only shows one poll where Obama has more than a one-point lead – that being the National Journal, where he has a five-point lead.

When it comes to individual states and the electoral college, RCP shows Obama as the clear winner. He is leading in a number of key battleground states including Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and winning the electoral college vote.

On the flip side, the site shows Romney leading in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina.


The Traders

Las Vegas and the polls provide some valuable insight, but maybe the most likely predictor is Intrade. The online polling and sampling-body site allows people to buy shares in a given candidate – just like a stock – and then get paid off at a set price when that outcome occurs.

Users buy shares at the market rate ($6.44 for an Obama victory, for example), and get paid off if the event comes to pass (Obama shares would be worth $10 in the event of an Obama win, while Romney shares would be worth $0.)

The site has been good in the past: In 2004, it predicted President George W. Bush’s re-election and properly predicted which candidate would win each state. In 2008, the site picked Obama to win and missed on only two states.

As of today, Obama holds a 67.3 percent change of winning while Romney is at 33.9 percent.


For the gamblers and pollster out there, maybe InvestorPlace put it best in summing up the traders’ ability to predict the winner: “Whoever Intrade has as the favorite on Monday, Nov. 5, is stunningly likely to be your next president.”

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