Billionaire Denies Backing Bid to Overturn US Election After Offering $100M Bets on Result

Posted on: January 19, 2021, 02:08h. 

Last updated on: January 19, 2021, 02:21h.

A billionaire options trader whose donations helped fund the failed movement to overturn the US election results owns a company that allegedly offered to match bets of up to $100 million on the presidential race.

Jeffrey Yass
Jeffrey Yass shows off his poker skills at the 2013 WSOP. (Image: PokerNews)

Jeffrey Yass is one of the founders of the Pennsylvania-based quantitative trading firm Susquehanna International Group (SIG). In October, an anonymous source told Bloomberg the company was pitching the mammoth election bets to US hedge funds.

Quantitative traders use computer algorithms and complex mathematical models to identify and capitalize on trading opportunities. SIG is a big deal in the options and the exchange-traded fund market.

Yass and his company highly value the statistical analysis involved in gambling. SIG has its own poker blog – a game it encourages employees to study and play – and it also has a sports betting analytics firm based in Ireland.

Club for Growth

But Yass, along with ultra-conservative shipping magnate Richard Uihlein, is one of the biggest financial donors to Club for Growth, a right-wing billionaires’ anti-tax campaign that falsely claims the election was “stolen.”

Club for Growth supported renegade Republicans like Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) in their bid to challenge the election results. In 2020, Yass gave more than $20 million to Club for Growth.    

According to The Guardian, Yass and Uihlein have kept lower profiles than other Republican megadonors, such as the late Sheldon Adelson. But they have quietly transformed a “traditionally anti-regulatory and anti-tax pro-business pressure group into one that backs some of the most radical and anti-democratic Republican lawmakers in Congress.”

Did Anyone Take SIG Wager?

It is not known how many — if anyone — took up SIG’s wager proposal. Bloomberg reported that “few [had] gotten involved.” However, it’s unlikely that SIG had bets of anything close to a $100 million riding on the election, because we probably would have heard about it.

According to the Bloomberg piece, SIG was not offering to take bets itself. It was proposing to match wagers placed through commercial betting exchanges in the UK via its Dublin affiliate, since it is illegal to take bets on political events in the US.

Major political events provide the gambling industry with a marketing platform, and publicizing the biggest bets will guarantee them free column inches in national newspapers, exposure that’s difficult to come by under normal circumstances.

The world’s biggest betting exchange, Betfair, said a total of £600 million ($793 million) was traded on the election via its platform. The biggest bet it witnessed was $1.3 million on Biden to win, which yielded a payout of $2 million.

There were reports of a $5 million bet on Trump, but this was placed via a private bookmaker in Curacao.

Yass or No?

SIG failed to respond when contacted by about this story last Friday. However, Yass was emailed directly by a long-time associate, the Philadelphia-based journalist Laura Goldman, for his response to The Guardian story. Yass said he had not given any money to Club for Growth in a year. He also said he did not believe the US election had been stolen.

But according to Goldman, he refused to say whether he had asked Club for Growth to stop making false claims about the result, or whether he would refrain from making donations to lawmakers like Hawley and Cruz in the future.

According to public records, on November 10, 2020, Yass gave $2.5 million to the Protect Freedom Pac — an organization that continues to deny the election results — a week after the ballots closed.