CFTC-regulated, real-money prediction markets about movie box office – Cantor Exchange

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Cantor Exchange

http://www.cantorexchange.com/ —- A twin site of the Hollywood Stock Exchange.

Here are my early thoughts about the “-Cantor Exchange”-. I regret to say that their “-Cantor Exchange”- website does not seem very usable. (I hope it is not a bad omen.) It is impossible for me to copy their explanations posted on their webpages (other than the 2 press releases) and to republish that material in this post.

The second thought that comes to my mind is that their offerings are not standardized (their event derivatives are described in HSX lingo), and I wonder whether the real-money traders, who are accustomed to dealing with the CME, the NYSE, or InTrade, but who are not familiar with HSX, will make the effort to adapt. We will see. (I don’-t think that the HSX play-money traders will go speculating on this real-money prediction exchange.) The collateral question is, why would the Cantor Exchange (a brand-new exchange with not a single trader, as of today) be better positioned to organize event derivative markets on movie business than, say, HedgeStreet, InTrade, BetFair, or even the CME? Obviously, Cantor Fitzgerald (a bond broker) are thinking that they can leverage their Wall Street clientele and the HSX population to branch out and start up a brand-new, CFTC-regulated, real-money prediction exchange. It’-s quite a big bet. I say “-branch out”- because starting off a real-money prediction exchange (Cantor Exchange) is quite different than running a play-money prediction exchange (HSX). Just look at how difficult it has been for HedgeStreet, which started off in 2004, and escaped bankruptcy in 2007 thanks to their rescue by IG Index. After 4 years, HedgeStreet is still not profitable, and it will probably take more years before it turns the first profit. Let’-s wish a better future for Cantor Exchange.

I will update this present post, later on, linking to the reactions from the media and the blogs. (Cantor will be holding a conf call this Tuesday, so some media coverage will pop up over the next days.)

Here is a Financial Times news article, which won’-t tell you much more than the 2 press releases re-published below.

Here’-s Variety.

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Press releases:

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CANTOR ENTERTAINMENT TO ANNOUNCE MOVIE BOX OFFICE CONTRACTS

TO MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY AND INVESTOR COMMUNITY

Cantor Fitzgerald Files Application for Domestic Box Office Receipt Contracts

Los Angeles, CA- New York, NY – (December 8, 2008) – Cantor Entertainment, which provides various services to the entertainment industry and owns the Hollywood Stock Exchange, is pleased to announce that Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts will soon be available to the motion picture industry and investor community. Cantor Fitzgerald, its parent company, announced earlier today that it has filed an application to launch the Cantor Exchange, whose first listed product will be Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts.

Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts will offer film finance professionals and traders a new opportunity to hedge and speculate on the theatrical performance of wide-release Hollywood movies. Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts will be a next generation film-financing tool that allows market participants to hedge risk and provides them profit opportunities based on the first four weeks of a film’s box office revenues.

“It’s clear from our conversations within the industry and investment community that there is a tremendous opportunity to introduce this exciting new tool to complement existing film financing alternatives. The market for Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts offers the motion picture industry, investment funds, banks and all other prospective investors a federally regulated trading exchange dedicated to the entertainment industry,” said Andrew L. Wing, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cantor Entertainment. “Our involvement in Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts reflects our continuing commitment to expand Cantor Entertainment’s numerous services in the entertainment industry.” The first Domestic Box Office Receipt contract is expected to be listed on the Cantor Exchange in the first quarter of 2009. Cantor Exchange is subject to final approval by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”).

About Cantor Entertainment
Cantor Entertainment, a division of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., provides services to the entertainment industry. Cantor Entertainment also owns the Hollywood Stock Exchange (www.HSX.com), the world’s leading virtual entertainment stock market.

About Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P.
Cantor Fitzgerald is a leading global financial services firm. The Cantor Fitzgerald franchise includes institutional equity and debt sales and trading, investment banking, private equity, as well as other businesses and ventures. For over 60 years, Cantor Fitzgerald, a proven and resilient leader, has been committed to delivering a unique brand of unparalleled product expertise, innovative technology and customer service to its clients around the world. For more information, please visit www.cantor.com.

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Cantor Fitzgerald Announces Application for Cantor Exchange

Domestic Box Office Receipt Contracts are Expected to be First Contract Market

A New Tool in Film Finance

NEW YORK–-(BUSINESS WIRE)–- Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., a leading global financial services firm, announced today that it has filed an application with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) to launch the Cantor Exchange. Cantor Exchange intends to list Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts as the exchange’s first traded product.

“The Cantor Exchange and our intention to list Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts reflect our continuing commitment to innovation in the finance and entertainment sectors,” said Howard W. Lutnick, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cantor Fitzgerald.

Subject to final regulatory approval of the Cantor Exchange application, Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts will offer film finance professionals and traders a new opportunity to hedge and speculate on the theatrical performance (ticket sales) of major film titles. Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts will be a next generation financial management tool that allows film professionals to hedge risk and provides speculative opportunities to other market participants based on the first four weeks of a film’s box office performance.

The first Domestic Box Office Receipt contract is expected to be listed on the Cantor Exchange in the first quarter of 2009, subject to final approval of the Cantor Exchange application by the CFTC.

About Cantor Exchange

Cantor Exchange is launching the first trading platform based on movie box office revenue, and expects to begin listing Domestic Box Office Receipt contracts in the first quarter of 2009, subject to final regulatory approval. Cantor Exchange is a division of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., one of the world’s leading financial services firms, and is partnered with Cantor Entertainment, another subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald, which provides services to the entertainment industry and owns the Hollywood Stock Exchange® (www.HSX.com), the world’s leading virtual entertainment stock market.

About Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P.

Cantor Fitzgerald is a leading global financial services firm. The Cantor Fitzgerald franchise includes institutional equity and debt sales and trading, investment banking, private equity, as well as other businesses and ventures. For over 60 years, Cantor Fitzgerald, a proven and resilient leader, has been committed to delivering a unique brand of unparalleled product expertise, innovative technology and customer service to its clients around the world. For more information, please visit www.cantor.com.

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UPDATES WILL BE POSTED BELOW, LATER TODAY (AND DURING THE NEXT DAYS)…-

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[T]he initiative is not for an application for a product extension of HSX. Rather it is an application for the launching of a new futures market, the Cantor Exchange, which will list Domestic Box Office Receipt Contracts. The contracts will also be known as Movie Box Office Contracts.

There are some similarities with HSX in that Movie Box Office Contracts are modeled on the MovieStock methodology of our site. For example, the contracts will be based on four weeks of a film’-s domestic box office revenue. The regulatory approval process is inherently uncertain, so it’-s a bit premature to say we are moving into real-money film trading markets just yet, but that is our intent.

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That is from Alex Costakis, MD of HSX.

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Here’-s the Cantor Exchange project leader: Richard Jaycobs.

He seems to be a man open to suggestions.

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CNBC on Cantor Exchange —- Via Jason Ruspini

Fox Business on Cantor Exchange –-

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Financial Times:

All eyes on Hollywood futures

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Previously: Should the Hollywood Stock Exchange become a real-money betting exchange? – 2007-10-04

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At the contrary, mister Kirtland.

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Contra Alex Kirtland, I believe that the development of play-money prediction exchanges using MSR (like HubDub or AskMarkets), which popularity is now proved, is much more important news than stuff about CFTC-regulated, real-money prediction exchanges (like HedgeStreet or the Cantor Exchange), which popularity is uncertain.

Inkling Markets, HubDub and AskMarkets have been techcrunched —-that has not been the case for HedgeStreet or the Cantor Exchange. Practically, that means a great injection of PageRank, hundreds if not thousands of bookmarks, and plenty of new users. That’-s not what I call being “-overshadowed”-.

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Regulated U.S. election markets might not be so hard.

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Based on the arguments Hedgestreet presented in its response to the CFTC on event markets, the exchange has a fairly strong justification to self-certify and begin trading election futures, soon. While most event markets trade as binary options, and the CFTC has flexible discretion over options per 7 U.S.C. § 6c(b), the Commission does not have direct discretion over approving DCM futures that conform to the Commodity Exchange Act, by 7 U.S.C. § 7a-2(c)(3). Therefore, a vote-share or electoral college future is more feasible at this moment than a winner-take-all option, although the latter is more useful as a hedging vehicle.

The major question here is what degree of trading restrictions the CFTC considers appropriate in order to fulfill the CEA’-s “-beyond the control”- criterion of excluded commodities. There is little doubt that low position limits alongside candidate death contingencies and prohibitions on trading by candidates, their staffs, members of the electoral college, and their proxies would not satisfy the CEA in this respect. The challenge lies in enforcing such trading prohibitions. I hope that Hedgestreet is in the process of developing a framework to do so. The CFTC could also issue an interpretive letter on this specific point, without addressing the more general, challenging issues related to their jurisdiction over event markets.

If Hedgestreet’-s trading restrictions are conservative and rigorous, it is improbable that such a self-certification would put Hedgestreet in bad graces with the CFTC. Alternatively, Hedgestreet could submit the futures (or options) for approval under CFTC regulation 40.3. If they do so, the CFTC has 45 days to review the products, at which point they could render a decision or extend the review process. In the meantime, however, Hedgestreet could be in communication with the CFTC and NFA concerning the development of trading restrictions, which again should be the main point of contention here, as there is no doubt that such event markets are associated with an “-economic consequence”-. Note that CME does not even believe that trading prohibitions are necessary, citing the role of the Fed in determining interest rates and the lack of problems there with respect to manipulation. I tend to believe that the Fed and interest rates is a special case, not to mention that it is treated differently in the CEA, and that it is prudent to impose special trading restrictions on political event contracts. Those restrictions, however, can remain flexible and be loosened over time, especially the position limits, as the market grows.

Given the current political climate in which the CFTC operates, the Commission may welcome such an active stance from Hedgestreet and other DCMs on this issue, as it will allow them to take a more passive role in the process. In the case of vote-share, electoral college and tax futures with appropriate trading restrictions, the Commission would simply be complying with the CEA by allowing such contracts. Allowing winner-take-all options would be incrementally more sensitive for the CFTC given their additional discretion in such cases. In any case, I think we have passed beyond the point where there is any material doubt that such markets are bona fide excluded commodities.

[Previously, my response to the CFTC, where I take a broader view with respect to jurisdiction and issues like gaming law preemption. Cross-posted from Risk Markets and Politics]

In its upcoming proceedings, therefore, the CFTC should exempt prediction markets from regulations that would prevent them from flourishing, like requiring that such shares be traded on designated commodity exchanges.

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…- wrote that academic guy in the Wall Street Journal. But he doesn’-t mention that HedgeStreet and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (and the CBOT) are all for the “-excluded commodities”- and the “-Designated Contract Makers”- way.

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Honesty and fairness, when writing in a prestigious publication, would dictate that you mention your opponents’- opinions.

Academia = Ivory Tower.

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Will the Wall Street Journal give the same airtime to HedgeStreet and the CME Group?

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Previous blog posts by Chris F. Masse:

  • The FaceBook profiles of the 2 most important men of the field of prediction markets
  • THE HUMAN GADFLY WHOSE OBJECTIONS ROBIN HANSON IS DUCKING…???…
  • Google now considers Midas Oracle as a major blog.
  • Horizon 2015: A long-term strategic perspective for the real-money prediction markets
  • Join our group at LinkedIn to have your “Prediction Markets” badge on your profile. It’s ‘chic’. (“Groups” info should be set as “visible”, in your profile options.) We are 63 this early Saturday morning —keeps growing.
  • If you have been using PayPal to fund your InTrade, TradeSports or BetFair account, please, check that horror story.
  • 48 hours after the launch of the “Prediction Markets” group at LinkedIn, we have already 52 members —both prediction market luminaries and simple people (trading the event derivatives or collecting the market-generated probabilities).

Chris Masses second comment to the CFTC on event markets (prediction markets)

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Chris F. Masse
Midas Oracle
cfm —-—- midasoracle —-—- com
chrisfmasse —-—- gmail —-—- com

July 6th, 2008

Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Three Lafayette Centre
1155 21st St. NW
Washington D.C. 20581

Attention:
Office of the Secretariat- secretary@cftc.gov

Reference:
Concept Release on the Appropriate Regulatory Treatment of Event Contracts
73 FR 25669

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Just a technical note, before I give you my thoughts. In the following, I call “-prediction market”- the specific market where one particular event derivative is traded. (For instance, the “-Barack Obama will be elected US President in November 2008″- prediction market.) And I call “-prediction exchange”- the general marketplace where many prediction markets (on political elections and other events) are traded. (Hence, I call HedgeStreet a “-prediction exchange”-).

Please, allow me to give you my thoughts on the subject of real-money prediction exchanges:

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ABOUT THE INFORMATION AGGREGATION MECHANISM, FORECASTING, THE LIQUIDITY OF THE SOCIALLY VALUABLE PREDICTION MARKETS, THE DEVELOPMENT OF A US-BASED PREDICTION MARKET INDUSTRY, AND THE PROTECTION OF RETAIL TRADERS

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The information aggregation mechanism functions well only if there are enough traders. Probabilistic predictions (which are of interest of the economists cited in the CFTC’-s concept release) are generated only when there is enough liquidity, that is, when many traders come speculating on an event derivative market (e.g., on the topic of the next political election). Just because forecasters are interested in a topic and want to generate a market-based probabilistic prediction does not mean that traders will flock en masse. Market-generating forecasting is an offspring of the trading activity- if you have too little liquidity, you don’-t have any trustworthy probabilistic prediction.

The socially valuable prediction markets should meet 3 criteria:
- their contracts should be very well drafted, so that the probabilistic predictions generated would be useful to society-
- a sufficient number of traders should like the topic-
- there should exist advanced, primary indicators which traders can follow to get early information (e.g., polls, among other sources of information, in the case of prediction markets on political elections).

Here’-s a counter example. Yahoo! Research scientist David Pennock (one of the most active and well regarded researchers in this field) has created a set of prediction markets regarding the percentage share of web searches made in the US in 2008, for each Internet search engine (Google, Yahoo!, etc.) That would be extremely valuable, on the paper. Unfortunately, those sets of prediction markets have attracted only a fistful of traders:
http://www.intrade.com/aav2/trading/tradingHTML.jsp?evID=78364&amp-eventSelect=78364&amp-updateList=true&amp-showExpired=false
Hence, no trustworthy probabilistic predictions were generated.

The CFTC should take with a grain of salt the 2008 petition organized by the American Enterprise Institute
http://www.reg-markets.org/publications/abstract.php?pid=1276
that states that “-not-for-profit research institutions”- and “-government agencies”- should be allowed to run US-based, real-money prediction exchanges, for the good of society. Just because an organization is smart and fascinated by the prediction markets does not mean that its executives and managers will be capable of drawing traders. Obviously, prediction exchanges should be run by trading specialists and event derivative professionals, and properly regulated. No good will be done by the CFTC if amateurs are allowed to run un-regulated, real-money prediction exchanges.

I see 2 important keys for the development of socially valuable prediction markets.

a) The socially valuable prediction markets (which are not very popular, other than the ones on political elections) should be organized by the generalist prediction exchanges that draw traders en masse because they offer prediction markets on very popular topics.

Sports is a popular topic. If the CFTC go to the website of TradeSports http://www.tradesports.com/ , they will see that TradeSports links, on its frontpage, to the InTrade prediction markets at http://www.intrade.com/ and, thus, send the TradeSports traders to the InTrade prediction markets, which is obviously good for InTrade’-s liquidity in general, and especially good for InTrade’-s socially valuable prediction markets. In the same manner, the prediction markets on political elections organized by BetFair UK http://www.betfair.com/ are located within their central prediction exchange that is mainly devoted to sports.

The hard fact is that the most popular topic among individual traders (the retail customers of the prediction exchanges) is sports. As long as US laws and regulations won’-t allow US-based, real-money prediction exchanges to organize prediction markets on the topic of sports, many US event derivative traders will give their business to offshore, real-money prediction exchanges who accept to take money from US residents (as it is the case with TradeSports-InTrade Ireland).

I understand, though, that the CFTC is working under a jurisdiction that presently outlaws prediction markets on sports.

b) The executives of the popular, real-money prediction exchanges should be willing to create socially valuable prediction markets by collaborating with outside researchers who specialize in certain verticals.

As of today, InTrade is the only real-money prediction exchanges that fill these 2 criteria —-a) and b). InTrade’-s executives and managers have deployed a considerable effort to create and run an impressive number of socially valuable prediction markets.

BetFair UK have chosen not to develop socially valuable prediction markets, alas —-other than those on UK politics, which are well developed and of high social utility. And HedgeStreet does not have yet the CFTC’-s stamp of approval to run markets of event derivatives non-financial topics, since that’-s the purpose of the May 2008’-s concept release.

The economists Justin Wolfers, Eric Zitzewitz, Robin Hanson, Koleman Strumpf and David Pennock (among others) have collaborated with InTrade Ireland to frame interesting questions. Obviously, the research institutions which those economic scientists are affiliated with (e.g., universities, colleges, business schools) have no business running real-money prediction markets.

If the “-not-for-profit research institutions”- and “-government agencies”- want to develop socially prediction markets, then they should do it in cooperation with established, popular, regulated, real-money prediction exchanges, who know what they are doing.

(In passing, I fully support Tom W. Bell’-s point made in the 5th paragraph of his petition. The CFTC should not favor the not-for-profit prediction exchanges at the expense of the for-profit prediction exchanges. Tom W. Bell’-s comment to the CFTC has not yet appeared on the CFTC website, as I type this. http://agoraphilia.blogspot.com/2008/07/lets-tell-cftc-where-to-go.html )

As I said, I follow the prediction market industry since 2003, and the 2 most common mistakes I see made by
the people proposing brand-new socially valuable prediction markets are that:
- they forget that the event derivative traders should have fun-
- they forget that, for each prediction market, there should exist advanced, primary indicators that traders should rely on to inform their trades.

I want to tell the CFTC that most people who talk about creating brand-new socially valuable prediction markets are totally unaware of these 2 basic rules.

In the beginning of this comment, I said that prediction markets are forecasting tools (and, hence, decision-support tools) if, and only if, there is sufficient liquidity. I also noticed that the world’-s most liquid socially valuable prediction markets are offered by 2 exchanges (TradeSports-InTrade and BetFair) who use popular prediction markets (on sports, the fact is) to support the marketing of less popular, socially valuable prediction markets. (After making that argument, I acknowledged that the CFTC currently works for a legal environment that prohibits prediction markets on sports.)

My point here is to emphasize the uber importance of liquidity on socially valuable prediction markets. In my view, the best situation is when a big, generalist, real-money prediction exchange organizes socially valuable prediction markets and helps them to thrive. Only InTrade Ireland has done that, so far. My suggestion to the CFTC would be to create a legal environment such that their liquidity could be “-repatriated”- to the US, on a “-InTrade USA”- real-money prediction exchange.

A related issue is that the CFTC should be concerned about HedgeStreet’-s financial health. After its third round of funding, HedgeStreet raised a total of $24.9 million.

http://www.hedgestreet.com/abouthedgestreet/pressreleases/pressrelease_21.html

Lately, HedgeStreet was aquired by an offshore investor for $6 million.

http://www.hedgestreet.com/abouthedgestreet/pressreleases/pressrelease_32.html

Obviously, there has been destruction of wealth, here.

The CFTC did a great job in 2004 when it approved HedgeStreet’-s application as a Designated Contract Maker (DCM). The CFTC should now finish the job by creating a legal environment favoring the profitability of HedgeStreet and of other non-intermediated DCMs (e.g., InTrade USA, or BetFair USA, or TradeFair USA) —-which I hope will be started up in the future in the US.

What I am afraid with the May 2008’-s concept release on “-event markets”- is that the CFTC does not look into the real issues: the liquidity of socially valuable prediction markets, and the profitability of US-based companies operating real-money prediction exchanges (non-intermediated DCMs).

I’-m afraid that all the solutions consisting in “-exemptions”- and “-no-action”- letters are false solutions that do not address the real issues.

Finally, for the issue regarding the protection of retail traders, I suggest that the CFTC looks into the worst scandal that occurred in the field of prediction markets —-the “-North Korea Missile prediction market”- scandal. I am sad to say that InTrade Ireland acted in the worst way possible, and, thus, have indelibly tarnished their reputation, alas.

http://www.midasoracle.org/predictions/nkm-scandal/

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Thanks for listening,

Chris F. Masse
Panorama B, Green Side
305, avenue Saint Philippe
Les Templiers, Sophia–Antipolis
06410 Biot, Alpes-Maritimes
France, European Union

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RELATED POSTS:

- Chris Masse’-s first comment to the CFTC on “-event markets”- (prediction markets)

- What the CFTC is asking.

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Are US-based real-money prediction exchanges to become federally regulated (as DCMs)? Or semi-regulated (as ECMs, or as exchanges covered by no-action letters)?

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BusinessWeek:

In its request for comment, the CFTC reminded the public that the commission should “-promote innovation for futures and derivatives.”- It also added that —hint, hint— the Iowa markets have been valuable sources of public information and have predicted Presidential outcomes better than polls. The 2000 act gave the CFTC the authority “-to promote responsible economic or financial innovation”- by creating an exemption for certain types of contracts (such as one in a prediction market). [...]

“-Basically I think they’-re going to expand the IEM no-action letter and take legal measures to make sure that legal contracts aren’-t subject to antigambling laws,”- says Chapman law professor Bell. [...]

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BusinessWeek gets it right about where the CFTC is going. (Go reading the 2 pages.)

However, I still believe that HedgeStreet has a strong argument (about the political elections being “-excluded commodities”-) and I wonder what the CFTC will do about it.

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What to think of HedgeStreets comment to the CFTC

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It’-s a very important take.

- HedgeStreet’-s comment to the CFTC. —- (PDF file)

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Basically, they are saying:

  1. We saw that the CFTC is entertaining the “-exemption”- way for prediction markets on politics and on other news.
  2. You have lost your sanity, folks. The “-exemption”- solution will bring you plenty of problems.
  3. You should approve these prediction markets under the classic, regulated way (the DCM solution). The classic regulation is the right way to deal with the potential problems you mentioned in your “-concept release”-.

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That’-s a pretty strong argument.

(Just remember the conundrum that Jason Ruspini has exposed.) (PDF file)

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Now, the counter argument is to say that the DCM way slows innovation —-thus the need to “-exempt”-.

That’-s a pretty strong argument, too.

Indeed, one can point that it’-s IEM, InTrade and BetFair who have grown the field of prediction markets —-not HedgeStreet.

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DEVELOPING…- :-D

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UPDATE: Jason Ruspini seems to be in agreement with HedgeStreet. I like that. See his comment, just below.

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UPDATE: Jason Ruspini gives his understanding of the HedgeStreet’-s comment to the CFTC.

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UPDATE: A second look at HedgeStreet’-s comment to the CFTC about “-event markets”-

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Hey, mister the pragmatist, how come you never informed the readers of your (otherwise, very smart) blog that CFTC-regulated HedgeStreet bellied after 3 years, burning in vain $24.9 million?

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Wouldn’-t that hard fact (the $24.9 million that disappeared in flames) be worthy of being cited, for the sake of “-pragmatism”-, on a blog written up by a “-pragmatist”-?

So, my good doctor, when is it that you’-re going to tell the truth to your readers?

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UPDATE: See his comment, just below…-

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How VC blogger Paul Kedrosky pumped up HedgeStreet to his gullible readers in 2006, and later failed to update them with the hard fact of its (de facto) bankruptcy. Why telling the truth to readers when its easier to tell them fairy tales?

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Paul Kedrosky was all excited, in April 2006, to tell his gullible readers that HedgeStreet received another round of funding —-adding all up to $24.9 million.

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And just 18 months after Paul Kedrosky’-s pronouncement, HedgeStreet (v1) ate the bullet and bellied up.

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And, of course, Paul Kedrosky has never mentioned to his readers the hard fact that those $24.9 million went up in flames —-creating nothing else than hot air.

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Why bothering with reporting the truth? Let’-s tell blog readers some fairy tales, instead. They swallow.

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