Betting on Elections: History, Law and Policy

‘Betting on Elections: History, Law and Policy’ (2014) 42(2) Federal Law Review

University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law Research Paper No. 14-01

20 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2014

See all articles by Graeme D. Orr

Graeme D. Orr

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Orr, Graeme, Betting on Elections: History, Law and Policy (2014). ‘Betting on Elections: History, Law and Policy’ (2014) 42(2) Federal Law Review; University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law Research Paper No. 14-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2378149

Graeme Orr (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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