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Online casinos agree: Obama is the clear favorite

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Who’s winning the presidential election? Partisans will argue about this until they’re red or blue in the face. Is it more important that Gallup says Romney’s ahead among registered voters, or that the Five Thirty Eight blog says Obama’s got a clear path to cruise through the electoral college?

But while attention-hungry pundits make grandiose claims or declare it all a horse race, there are people whose livelihood actually depends on predicting who will win: Gamblers.

To that end, the Daily Dot looked at ten different online betting sites, all of which use their own oddsmaking systems, to see what odds they gave Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (and in one case, Ron Paul) to win the 2012 presidential election. (Please note online gambling is illegal in the United States.)

Without exception, President Obama is the favorite to win the election, at least among the oddsmakers surveyed. However, it’s important to consider that with two caveats: first, these sites’ odds are extremely fluid, changing drastically with each gaffe and bump in the polls. And second, they’re not purely determined by who’s likelier to win the election: if the majority of betters think Obama will win, for instance, oddsmakers will move the line to pay more to those who bet for Romney, making him seem like more of an underdog than he actually is. However, in the case of at least one site, Bovada, the majority of betters have chosen Romney.

“Last night's debate proved to be a decent gain for Obama,” said Kevin Bradley, Bovada’s Sportsbook Manager, noting that odds that Obama would win had moved from -180 to -200 after Monday’s debate. “Early money [Tuesday] morning on the Democrats [had] already moved it to -215.”

(A note on terminology: a negative number, like -180, indicates an event an oddsmaker thinks is likely to happen. It means a better needs to put in that much money to win $100: you risk $180 to win $100. A positive number, like 170, means that if you bet $100, you’ll receive that much money if you’re right. In other words, you risk $100 to win $170.)

On average, the ten sites surveyed put Obama and Romney at -205.8 and 169.7, respectively, meaning that Obama believers would stand to win less than half their investment if he’s reelected, but that Romney supporters would collect more than two thirds more than what they put in if he takes the White House.

Not that the sites agree on how stark the contrast between the two candidates is. Bet 360 has the most faith in President Obama out of those surveyed, putting him at -250. Top Bet gives Romney his best numbers, at 180.

The fact that Obama seems such a clear but volatile favorite, argues Swinging Johnson, a pseudonymous blogger at the betting forum SBR, means that right now, a bet on Romney could actually get you more bang for your buck.

“The election has certainly tightened up,” he wrote Tuesday. “I liked the underdog the first time around, and he definitely has more of a chance now than he did in late August. As I stated last time, let's stick with the motto of hope and change, only this time the change is Mitt Romney. Take Romney +175.”

Photo by Jamie Adams/Wikimedia Commons