Quick-Takes: Political Gambling

A political practice known as gambling in presidential elections, which entails the process of people only voting on whichever presidential candidate is most likely to win, could have various effects.

Legalizing Political Gambling Will Increase Voters’ Interest and Turnout

It is well known that the United States voter turnout is abysmal. As seen by a Pew Research study, the U.S. is ranked 31st for voter turnout among the 34 developed, democratic countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Clearly, we need to increase votership, and legalizing political gambling — betting money on the likelihood of political events — may be an effective solution.

Through investing their own money into politics, voters would learn about the candidates’ viewpoints and backgrounds. As seen in The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, when a group of men playing fantasy football were more willing to educate themselves on politics when money was put on the table, it is clear that gambling would increase awareness and voter turnout.

According to CNN, before electronic polling became standard, election wagering was one of the best ways to predict an election. In fact, the United Kingdom still allows betting on elections, and there are various prediction markets, including Pivit and PredictIt, which allow participants to bet points over political events. Political gambling is already taking place nationally. Lawyer Frank Silinsky says that the distribution of stories related to betting amounts on a candidate does not directly impact the voting outcome in such a large election.

U.S. political ignorance is a running joke that needs to end. It’s time to make tangible progress toward higher voter turnout, a standard in most other developed countries. Legalizing political gambling in the U.S. will offer voters incentive to become informed without drastically impacting the outcome of the race.

— AARTHI VENKAT Staff Writer

Gambling Will Increase the Already Intrusive Role of Money in Politics

From Wall Street to Vegas, Americans love to make money by taking risks, and many now ask why politics should serve as any exception. Legalizing bets on who will win the presidential election might seem like a harmless way to encourage voter turnout, but in reality, it would just give the rich another way to buy influence in government and corrupt the system.

We must consider the difference between the candidate most likely to win and the candidate we would like to win. Gambling encourages us to predict the most popular candidate and do all we can to ensure they win for the sake of our big payout. This would mean voting for them instead of for the candidate with whom we most agree. Unlike American betting, Europeans who bet on American elections run no risk of distorting the results because they cannot actually vote in them.

Any stockbroker can attest to the volatility of public perception and how deeply it affects value. In a nation where blocs of the populace vote for monetary gain, mere public perception of a candidate leading the race could catapult them to win by a landslide. Corporations with stakes in a given outcome would bombard us with ads and polls, not to inform us, but to sell us a product, skew public perceptions and manipulate voters for profit even more than they already do.

Elections must remain equally accessible to every citizen. If political gambling were common practice, it could disenfranchise recovering addicts and youths under 21 who might feel that they have to avoid political venues or discussions. In all, gambling would take us in the wrong direction, making the polls less accessible and cementing money’s role in politics.

— THOMAS FINN Senior Staff Writer

There are More Effective Tactics to Improve Voter Turnout than Gambling

While allowing gambling in presidential elections may increase voter turnout, it may actually increase political ignorance and encourage apathy toward elections. A government-funded movement toward alternative methods for increasing voter turnout would be much more effective.

With the use of social media at an all-time high, social media sites are major players in politics. Donald Trump has used social media to gain leverage and popularity in his campaign. President Obama relied on the same technique to increase turnout in 2008. The Seattle Times explains that “a third of a million more people showed up at the ballot box” for Obama’s election after Facebook had a “get out the vote” message on its news feed for the first time. This use of social media has not only increased the number of voters in elections, but has achieved this goal without relying on gambling.

In countries such as Australia, voting is mandatory and people who don’t vote are fined. In fact, MinnPost states that the four countries with the highest voter turnout have mandatory voting laws. Tax deductible voting also proves to promote voting and engage citizens in the political process, as discussed by FairVote. Policies such as these promote voting without simply expecting voters to place their bets on who they assume is most likely to win.

Considering that 60 percent of America’s voting population do not vote, according to MinnPost, America’s government clearly needs to use the popularity of social media and enforce stricter policies so that voter turnout increases for the right reasons.

— Emily Collins Staff Writer