Betting Sites Are Buying Bernie’s Surge

Bernie Sanders’ chances at the Democratic nomination have never been more real. He’s the favorite in Iowa and New Hampshire and has made up big polling ground in key Super Tuesday states, sparking excitement in his base and fright among establishment types.

Everybody’s recalibrated Bernie’s odds to win—even the people setting them.

According to RealClearPolitics, Sanders is the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic primary on seven out of eight major online sportsbooks as of Jan. 29. Averaging out all eight betting sites, Sanders holds a 3.3% lead over former Vice President Joe Biden.

Unsurprisingly, Bernie’s boost coincides with his recent polling surge. But his betting odds may have improved even more than his polling numbers. On Jan. 8, betting sites were giving Sanders a 26.8% betting chance to win the nomination; he’s now up to 37.3%. In national polling, Sanders has improved from 20.3% to 23.8% in that same span.

Individual sportsbooks show Sanders’ bump even more clearly. Bovada had Sanders at higher than +200 to win the Democratic primary at the beginning of this week. As of Thursday, he’s down to +165, slightly in front of Biden (+185) and far ahead of the rest of the field. He’s also the only Democratic candidate with minus odds to win the Iowa caucus (-250) and New Hampshire primary (-450). That means if you wanted to bet on Sanders to win Iowa, you’d have to risk $250 to win $100. Handicappers have staked him as the heavy early state favorite.

Handicappers are far from infallible predictors. They calculate odds to entice even betting on all candidates. As recently as October, those same eight betting sites now favoring Sanders gave Elizabeth Warren a 53.8% chance at winning the nomination.

But betting sites staking Sanders as such a heavy front runner in early states (and a slight overall favorite in the primary) isn’t insignificant, either. Hundreds of potential factors go into setting a football game point spread, from impending weather to team winning percentages to Google search results.

Political betting odds are tightly tethered to polls, but also take into account a variety of other information. News stories, volunteer numbers, campaign staffing, fundraising and advertising spending can all factor into setting political odds. And by all those measures, it’s no surprise Bernie is the favorite.