As the coronavirus pandemic has seen sporting events in the UK and across the world cancelled or postponed, there has been a considerable rise in Brits turning to political betting, new data has revealed.
Brits wagered £1.1m ($1.4m) on political events in March — a 95% increase on the previous month, up from £587,000, according to the data from sports betting company Smarkets.
Other than months where UK general elections were held, the traded volume on politics for March 2020 was the highest ever recorded.
For the month of March, the number of active users betting on politics increased 85% compared with February, Smarkets said.
Industry experts said a “great deal of this can be attributed to sports bettors taking to politics for the first time.”
Brits have already bet £2.3m on politics in 2020 on Smarkets’ platform and major political events such as the US presidential election are still to come.
The most popular political betting markets at the moment are those surrounding the US presidential election this year. Smarkets has already seen £3.5m wagered on who will be the Democratic nominee since the market was created two years ago.
For November’s presidential election, the odds on Donald Trump being re-elected are currently exactly 50%, with Joe Biden close behind on 43%.
Brits are also betting on UK politics, with 60% wagering that the Brexit transition period will be extended past the end of 2020, despite the government's recent insistence that there would be no extension. The odds on the chance of a UK-EU trade deal by the end of 2020, another popular political betting market, are just 18%, according to Smarkets.
Sarbjit Bakhshi, Smarkets head of political markets, said: “There has been a staggering increase in political betting since major sport came grinding to a halt in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is clearly illustrated by the 95% and 85% increases in traded volume and active users respectively on politics when comparing March to February — and I suspect a great deal of this can be attributed to sports bettors taking to politics for the first time.
“2019 was our biggest year yet, with the December UK general election and our variety of markets related to Brexit attracting millions of pounds in trading volume, yet 2020 is still on course to easily surpass it.
“The US presidential election is coming up later in the year; it is always huge for bettors this side of the pond, and with a personality like Trump involved we are fully expecting a new politics volume record.”