Betting on Elections: History, Law and Policy
‘Betting on Elections: History, Law and Policy’ (2014) 42(2) Federal Law Review
20 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2014
Date Written: 2014
Betting on elections has a long history, despite periods of in which wagers were unenforceable and even criminalised. In recent years significant online markets have emerged, driven by the bookmaking industry in those jurisdictions which license betting on politics. These markets treats election wagers as a form of sports betting. This paper examines the provenance and regulation of election betting in the common law, with a particular focus on Australia. It charts this from early case law holding wagers involving electors to be void (as tainting voting decisions through pecuniary interest), through criminal prohibitions, some of which are still on the statute books (for fear that wagers could disguise electoral bribes) and onto contemporary regimes for licensing electoral bookmaking.
The paper then canvasses normative arguments based on the liberal harm principle, the precautionary principle and the concept of commodification. It concludes that friendly wagers should be permitted, as a way for partisans to intensify the ritual experience of elections. But bets involving politicians should be outlawed, and the industrialisation of election betting should not be encouraged given the risk of commodifying the values underlying electoral democracy.
Keywords: election law, election history, election regulation, betting, gambling, wagering, commodification of politics
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