Odds-on Veep picks, literally

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Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

For all the opinions about who should be running mates for Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, there's one group that puts its money where its mouth is - offshore bettors.

The so-called "steam" - slang for a rush of betting action - indicates plenty of recent support for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Pawlenty has emerged as a co-favorite with Mitt Romney to be McCain's running mate. Odds are about 2-1.

On the Democratic side, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh are the betting co-favorites at similar odds in the 2-1 range to serve as Obama's running mate in the November election.

Betting on politics isn't permitted in Nevada, but offshore and international sports books cater to politics bettors.

The support for Pawlenty among bettors has been driven in part by his longtime close friendship with McCain, although the Minnesotan's name recognition among voters remains an issue.

In a recent monologue, Jay Leno said of Pawlenty: "I googled him and it said, ‘Who?' "

Odds in the presidential election are holding steady with Obama a 5-2 favorite, according to offshore and international betting establishments.

Nevada's oddsmakers don't set lines on the political races, but it would be easy to digest the political scene and make odds on elections, said Kenny White, chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which sets the odds on sporting events for most of Nevada's race and sports book operations.

For example, White predicted Obama's edge will increase.

But bettors beware.

Not only is offshore betting illegal here, but the odds sometimes swing widely.

On Election Day 2004, the offshore books swung from George W. Bush's being a 2-1 favorite to John Kerry's being a 3-1 favorite.

"That was amazing, a giant line move from Bush to Kerry," White said. "All of the exit polls were getting the wrong information."

Gamblers used that feedback and poured money on Kerry at the offshore sites. "Those offshore books made a killing," White said.

White said Nevada casinos' handles would jump more than $1 billion.

But it will never happen.

"Our regulations are pretty much set in stone," he said. "We're only allowed to take wagers on sporting events that are settled on the field. That's why there's no wagering on the Heisman Trophy winner. That's voting."

Sun reporter Rob Miech contributed to this report.


Jeff Haney, www.lasvegassun.com

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