West Virginia became the first state to take bets for the 2020 presidential election on Tuesday before urging FanDuel Sportsbook to take down its listing 15 minutes later. FanDuel obeyed the request.
Gambling in general is a hot-button issue in the U.S. that most states are only recently starting to embrace. Political gambling has to date been a step beyond what even the most eager states are willing to fight for, and it comes with potential legal ramifications.
While West Virginia has reportedly been considering the merits of election wagers, FanDuel's move to accept wagers Wednesday was apparently the result of miscommunication.
There are conflicting accounts of what happened. FanDuel in a statement said the framework for election wagers in the state has been approved, but "the West Virginia Lottery has asked FanDuel to refrain from offering the markets until we have time to fully work through the implications and research it further." The West Virginia Lottery in a statement said "someone jumped before being given an approval" but said the idea remained under review.
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, meanwhile, responded to FanDuel in strong terms, essentially shutting down the plan.
"I do not know the exact facts, but I can tell you it’s illegal, somebody jumped the gun," Warner told WV Metro News. "Nobody should be betting on presidential elections in West Virginia or anywhere."
FanDuel has been looking for ways to attract users with few sporting events happening during the coronavirus pandemic. It previously let users enter free contests in which they could predict which phrases would be said more often during Democratic presidential debates. Those contests featured cash prizes, but because users did not wager any money and the contests took place on the DFS side of FanDuel, they were not considered political betting.