The polls may be open for several more hours, but the gambling community has already spoken and is placing its bets on a victory for Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election tonight.

A number of popular betting websites have been taking bets on the outcome of the American vote Tuesday evening. That's been the case for several months, but the amount of money and the potential payouts has moved frequently in recent days.

Among the largest is InTrade which bills itself as "the world's leading prediction market." As it does for a number of non-sports events, InTrade allows users to bet on the outcome by buying a "contract" for that event.

'Paddy Power believes it’s a done deal and …Obama is a nailed-on certainty to win a second term.'—Gambling website Paddy Power PLC

"The offshore sports books have been setting odds on major events like the Oscars and reality show outcomes for years," Joe Duffy, the CEO of offshoreinsiders.com told CBC News in an interview. "But bets on presidential elections is something they mainly get into for the exposure." 

InTrade contracts on correct bets pay $10, so the potential profit comes from the gap between that figure and the price paid to purchase the contract.

Around noon on Tuesday, InTrade was selling Obama contracts for $7.35 which would make for a $2.65 profit for the person placing the bet. A Romney contract could be purchased for $2.65, which would pocket a profit of $7.35 if it pays off. Both contracts pay $0 (and the $10 is lost) if that candidate loses.

In layman's terms, that means the market thinks Obama has a a 73.5 per cent chance of retaining the White House. Romney has a 26.5 per cent chance of winning, according to InTrade.

In the sports betting world, Dublin-based Paddy Power PLC is a market leader. And it, too, has seen a strong trade in bets based on the U.S. election.

Much of that action is being placed on Obama. As much as 75 per cent of the bets the website coming in on the election on the website are backing Obama. There's so much action on Obama that the website has gone as far as announcing they are paying out Obama bets early.

Romney listed as 2016 favourite

"Despite the national polls showing voters remain largely undecided with nothing more than a sheet of ballot paper between the two candidates, Paddy Power believes it’s a done deal and that Obama is a nailed-on certainty to win a second term," Paddy Power spokesman Rory Scott told CBC News.

The unprecedented early payouts have already cost Paddy Power $650,000 US. If Romney wins, the website will be obligated to pay out winners on those bets, too. But that doesn't mean betting has been closed. Nearing midday Tuesday, the Paddy Power website was still offering odds on both candidates.

A bet on Obama currently comes with 1/6 odds — meaning a $6 bet would bring in a profit of $1 plus the original $6 back. The website is offering much better odds on Romney. At 4/1, a $6 bet on Romney winning would bring back $24 in profit or $30 total.

The website is also offering odds on the results of the 2016 election. In that contest, Romney is listed as the favourite with 9/2 odds, meaning a $2 bet would bring in $9 in profit if he wins.

Opinion polls suggest Tueday's election is a statistical dead heat that will come down to voter turnout in a select number of key swing states such as Ohio and Florida. But the betting community appears to be a lot more clear on the subject.

"Any time the opinion polls are saying one thing and the sports books are saying something else, the sports books are always right," Duffy says.