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In online betting parlors, Clinton expands lead over Trump -- bigly

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Latest MoneyWatch headlines 01:02

Online betting and prediction markets in the U.S. and abroad suggest Hillary Clinton fortified and expanded her lead over Donald Trump after the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night.

The markets enable participants to bet on a range of questions, and often they perform better than opinion polls at predicting political outcomes.

On U.S. prediction market PredictIt, Clinton was trading at 81 cents before the debate, jumped as high as 87 cents during the sparring match, and settled at 83 cents after, said PredictIt spokeswoman Brandi Travis in an interview. That suggests an 83 percent likelihood she’ll win on Election Day.

Final debate impact 06:22

The market -- which traded 4.8 million shares Wednesday, its highest total this year -- predicts Clinton will trounce Trump by 8 percentage points, which would be the largest presidential margin of victory since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide.

Another U.S. market, PredictWise, on Thursday morning put the odds of a Clinton victory at 91 percent.

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power is so confident in a Hillary Clinton victory, its spokesman (official title: PR & Mischief Champion) noted a come-from-behind Trump victory would “trigger the biggest political payout in bookmaking history and leave Paddy Power with some very expensive pie on its face.”

Added the spokesman, in an email: “This was Trump’s best performance but he failed to land the knockout blow that he needed to influence the odds. Having paid out on a Clinton victory a late surge from The Donald will have us sweating like a bad hombre but we remain confident in our decision following the final debate.”

In the U.S., non-profit outfits such as PredictIt and PredictWise offer small-dollar, limited betting markets for the purposes of research and teaching. Rules on political wagering are more permissive overseas, with major players like Paddy Power and U.K.-based Betfair raking in big dollars from bettors.

The overseas odds often mirror those of U.S. markets, sometimes with a lag of a few days since they don’t directly reflect the sentiment of the U.S. voter, Travis noted. The markets also tend to closely follow polling averages including the one maintained by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website.

Top debate tweets 02:22

While there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of political betting markets, they nonetheless have a “respectable track record” of predicting election outcomes -- and generally are more accurate than opinion polls, according to a note this month from Capital Economics.

That’s despite the high-profile black mark known as Brexit: The betting markets predicted -- up to the day Britain voted -- an 80 percent likelihood U.K. voters would opt to “remain” in the European Union. They did not.

The final presidential debate was in Las Vegas, so it should come as no surprise the event had British betting powerhouse William Hill as a co-sponsor.

Based on odds offered by William Hill, pretty much the only sure thing about the debate was that Donald Trump would say “tremendous” -- requiring a massive $1,000 bet to win a paltry $1. The next most likely utterances were “Make America Great Again” from you-know-who and “Stronger together” from Clinton.

The most unlikely utterances? From Clinton, a reference to Trump’s “wig/hairline” -- William Hill’s words, mind you -- paying out $330 on a $10 bet. For Trump, the long shot was rally favorite “Get ‘em out” -- with a payout of $200 on a $10 bet.

The odds on PredictIt suggested TV viewership would be down (yet to be seen) from the first two debates and Trump would talk more than Clinton (she wound up talking for 5 minutes more than him).

The market paid out on bets the phrases “open borders” and “rigged election” would make appearances, but “Crooked Hillary” did not get air time.

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