The United States and the European governments will default on their debt, eventually – dixit Marc Faber. [PREDICTIONS]

Singapore is the safest.

2:15 into


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Via Joe Weisenthal

HR 2267 = a bill that would legalize Internet gambling in the United States

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Will happen in 2010.

Bye bye UIGEA.

Barney Franks Payment System Protection Act (HR6870)

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…- is a shitty bill…- since it excludes sports betting.

RELATED: A news article (in French) implies, between the lines, that BetFair (who always respected the US laws) should be later granted a license to operate in the US, the day it becomes legal, while InTrade-TradeSports (who didn’-t) should not be granted a license. Hummm…-

EXTERNAL LINK: iMEGA

THANKS: Tip via mister Emile of NewsFutures

Nobel laureate Gary Becker and judge Richard Posner both wish that, one day, real-money prediction markets will be legal, without restrictions, in the United States of America.

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Via David Pennock of Odd Head fame

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Gary Becker:

[...] I believe that online political prediction markets, and other online prediction markets as well, should be legal in the United States and elsewhere, even if the amounts bet were quite large. There is no important substantive difference between such online betting markets and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and other exchanges that allow individuals and organizations to take positions on movements of stock indexes, housing price indexes, and prices of other derivatives. A distinction is sometimes made between political betting markets and derivative markets since participants in derivative markets may be hedging other risks that they face. Yet this distinction has little substance since if larger bets were allowed in online political markets, groups whose welfare depended greatly on political outcomes would make greater use of these markets. For example, if a Republican presidential win would mean greater spending on military weapons, companies in the arms business might hedge their risks by betting on Barack Obama.

If large bets were allowed, some wealthy groups may bet a lot on their candidates in order to exert bandwagon influences on public opinion through their large bets affecting market odds. If so, these markets likely would become less reliable as predictors of outcomes, and hence would have less influence on opinions. To a large extent, therefore, these markets would be self correcting, although online political markets might place various other restrictions on bets, as is common in derivative and other exchanges.

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Richard Posner:

[...] There is an interesting question whether prediction markets should be thought of as “-gambling” and perhaps prohibited. As a matter of policy, that would be a mistake, even if one thinks that gambling should be prohibited. The prediction markets are markets for speculation, rather than for game-playing or risk-taking. Slot machines, card-playing, roulette wheels, and other conventional forms of gambling do not generate socially valuable information. Speculation does. Commercial speculation serves to hedge commercial risks and bring prices into closer phase with value. Political, cultural, etc. prediction markets also yield socially valuable information. The outcome of elections is important to companies and even individuals for whom particular public policies are important- they may wish to make adjustments to avert or exploit looming political change. Politicians too need to have as sharp a sense as possible about the effects on the electorate of their and their opponents’- strategies. Apparently they can get more accurate information from the prediction markets than from the public opinion pollsters.

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The Case for Decrimininalization of Prediction Markets

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[This article is cross-posted from Major Wager.]

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A recent article in the prestigious academic journal Science (May 16, 2008, Vol 320, p. 877-8) once again makes the case for regulated prediction markets, more commonly known as “-betting exchanges”- to online gamblers. The authors make the case that such markets are useful in forecasting future events with less error than traditional measures such as polling. This argument is hard to ignore, with the authors including 21 top economists from such esteemed institutions as Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania. Notable among the authors is Justin Wolfers from the Wharton School of business at UPenn, an economist who has gained notoriety in gambling circles due to his work on such topics as NBA referee bias (highlighted in a May 2008 article from MajorWager: http://www.majorwager.com/index.cfm?page=27&amp-show_column=660).

The concept behind using prediction markets as a decision-making tool is simple. “-Shares”- are made available on an open market, and the participants use their capital (and the promise of profits) to make predictions on future events, which is incorporated into the share price. In general, information tends to be widely dispersed, and a market allows wide-ranging opinions to be gathered and consolidated into a market-wide prediction. In other words, an infinite amount of opinions can be aggregated, and an open market with potential for profit provides an incentive for individuals to make their opinions publicly known.

Prediction markets always get more than their fair share of press near the end of the 4-year U.S. Presidential election cycle. The Iowa Electronics Market, housed at the University of Iowa, is perhaps the most well-known. The authors of the Science paper show that, in the week immediately preceding the Presidential elections from 1988 through 2000, the Iowa Electronic Markets erred by an average of only 1.5 percentage points from the actual vote results, while the traditional Gallup poll was off by 2.1%. Numerous other studies have shown the superiority of markets compared to other forecasting tools.

Of course, there have been some dust-ups regarding prediction markets in the past, most notably the “-terrorist strike market”-, unveiled a little too close to 9/11 to be palatable to the general public. The official name was the “-Policy Analysis Market“-, and it was established by the Pentagon to act as a prediction market for Middle East political events. It was quickly scuttled after heated comments from U.S. Senators, calling it “-grotesque”- and “-stupid”-, due to the perception of using catastrophic events such as assassinations as profit-making tools. Regardless of its political correctness (and the misinformed opinions of a few politicians), such a prediction market still holds value as a glimpse into the collective mindset of everyone with an understanding of political currents in the region. Utilizing such a prediction market as a component of foreign policy decisions may have ultimately spared the U.S. much grief in Iraq.

In recent years, prediction markets have grown beyond academic and government roles. Dublin-based InTrade is rapidly growing and provides many more options than the Iowa Electronic Markets. Others such as MatchBook have focused more on sporting contests, but provide coverage of other events as demand calls. Of course, those outside the U.S. have access to the largest betting exchange of them all, the massive European markets of BetFair. The success of these exchanges speaks to the public interest and feasibility of prediction markets.

One factor holding back the growth of online prediction markets is their close association with the quasi-legal world of sports betting and internet casinos. InTrade has been fairly proactive in this regard, spinning off from Tradesports to clean up its corporate slate, but it is still knee-deep in the legal sludge surrounding offshore “-gambling”-. All have to deal with the legal and financial hurdles of operating offshore.

The authors of the Science paper propose that clarification of internet gambling laws is needed to exploit the benefits of prediction markets within the United States. Clearly, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 is one such mechanism restricting the widespread use of prediction markets. Another is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the regulatory agency which oversees futures markets in the U.S. The CFTC has provided a “-no-action letter”- to the Iowa Electronic Markets, an assurance that they will not seek any enforcement action against the exchange. However, this protection is not absolute and may not trump state and federal law if challenged. The Science authors propose a number of legal reforms which will allow prediction markets to begin to gain acceptance within the U.S. financial regulatory structure.

By no means does the Science article condone large-scale public markets, at least not initially. They take a (typically academic) conservative approach, recommending new legal framework to allow for the establishment of small markets with limited scope so as to evaluate the promise and use of prediction markets. But baby steps are going to be a necessity in the growth and acceptance of regulated public markets.

Clearly, there are negative aspects to financial markets, and regulation certainly has its place. Bear Sterns, Enron, the S&amp-L scandal of the 80s, and the current housing bubble all caused tremendous loss of wealth resulting from missteps in the financial markets. The current oil crisis is due at least in part to speculation, leading to the introduction of no less than 9 separate bills in the U.S. Congress seeking tougher regulation over the trading of commodities. However, the existence of problems in the financial markets does not necessitate their dissolution. Likewise, prediction markets are sure to encounter bumps in the road, but their utility should far outweigh the risks.

Should prediction markets be legalized in the U.S.? Almost certainly. They would have benefit across numerous industries, from business decisions to political policies to financial forecasting. Unfortunately, this would require building an unlikely bridge over the Puritanical moral moat placed around gambling in the U.S. But there is no inherent difference in betting on who will win in an election than what the price of oil will be in 6 months, or what the S&amp-P 500 will close at on a particular date. Distancing prediction markets from “-illegal”- gambling, and instead likening them to regulated financial markets, will be a necessary first step towards broader acceptance.

The academic groundwork on prediction markets has already been laid, and offshore exchanges have begun to turn these concepts into functioning businesses. As these markets grow and begin incorporating more diverse opinions, we can expect their success rate at predicting the future to only grow. To restrict such a promising tool simply due to its perception that it is a gambling outlet is silly indeed.

6-25-08
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com

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[This article is cross-posted from Major Wager.]

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??? charity-driven prediction markets OR social issue prediction markets ???

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BOTH.

But, contrary to what Lucy Berholtz thinks, the former will go further than the latter —-in my view.

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My thoughts about the Financial Times article on Bet2Give:

  1. I have said from day one that it’-s a great idea.
  2. This is a “-unique”- concept…- until InTrade-TradeSports, Betdaq and BetFair-TradeSports decide to create a charity wallet for their traders. Complex, sure, but that might come, one day.
  3. I have the highest esteem for Lucy Berholtz, generally, but I’-m with Emile Servan-Schreiber on the idea that Bet2Give is not a simple marketing trick. All the money but a small percentage goes to the traders’- selected foundations. If all US betting were organized that way, that would mean a huge windfall for US foundations.
  4. Tyler Cowen makes sense.
  5. As for LongBets, it’-s a failed experiment in my judgment. Too many one-sided “-predictions”- for only a fistful of agreed “-bets”-.

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The information technology that caught Eliot Spitzer

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Read the previous blog posts by Chris F. Masse:

  • I get a kick each morning out of spying on the rich, famous, and powerful people updating their LinkedIn profile and connections. (Go to “InBox”, and click on “Network Updates”.)
  • ??? BetFair bet-matching logic ???
  • Eliot Spitzer has simply demonstrated once again that those who rise to the top of organizations are very often the most demented, conflicted individuals in any group.
  • Business Risks & Prediction Markets
  • Brand-new BetFair bet-matching logic proves to be very controversial with some event derivative traders.
  • Jimmy Wales accused of editing Wikipedia for donations.
  • What the prediction market experts said on Predictify

Is WeatherBill doing well, really??

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WeatherBill does so well that TechCrunch has just published two –-yes, two–- blog posts on it, today (Wednesday, October 17, 2007). Here’-s the first one, which basically says that two VCs have just poured $12,5 million dollars in it. Good for them. The second blog post, written by another TechCrunch writer, and which has been quickly taken off their website, basically said the same, but with this twist:

CEO David Friedberg says that WeatherBill has hundreds of customers and faces such high demand that it needs to bring more people aboard to increase capacity. The site has launched not only in the US but Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Norway as well.

So, should we believe the content of this now-deleted blog post? Or was it deleted because this information is not accurate? Mystery. ValleyWag should investigate. :-D

APPENDIX: Here’-s the deleted TechCrunch blog post on WeatherBill. (The second item that follows is the first blog post that was published by TechCrunch.)

Deleted TechCrunch WeatherBill

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UPDATE: VentureBeat on WeatherBill…-

VentureBeat on WeatherBill

UPDATE: Mark Hendrickson of TechCrunch…-

Our apologies for misleading everyone into thinking Weatherbill enables people to gamble the weather as if it were a casino game. The service is meant rather to provide insurance for companies that could be aversely affected by fluctuations in the weather.

Weatherbill’s CEO informs us that only companies with a net worth of at least $1 million can participate due to regulations of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He also says that Weatherbill is the first service to ever provide access to hedges on the weather (online or otherwise).

Also, for anyone wondering why we had two posts up about this story, that’s because Duncan and I reported on it independently by accident. I guess you could say we both find the weather very interesting.

HISTORY: Prediction Markets Timeline

For an updated version of this document, see the “-paged”- Prediction Markets Timeline.

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CHRONOLOGY &amp- HISTORY: Prediction Markets Timeline

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Feel free to post a comment or contact me, and I’-ll correct or add a factoid. Thanks.

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#1. Historical Prediction Markets

According to Paul Rhode and Koleman Strumpf, prediction markets almost never got it wrong forecasting the 19 presidential elections that took place from 1868 to 1940. (PDF)

#2. The three Iowa Electronic Markets founders (Robert Forsythe, Forrest Nelson and George Neumann)

“-We ran our first market in 1988. We didn’t have regulatory approval at that point so we were restricted solely to the University of Iowa community. We had under 200 traders and under $5,000.”- –- [Robert Forsythe - PDF file]

- [CFTC's no-action letter to the IEM - 1992 - PDF file]

- [CFTC's no-action letter to the IEM - 1993 - PDF file]

#3. Robin Hanson

a) Robin Hanson set up and ran a rudimentary prediction exchange (a market board, PPT file) in January 24, 1989. The outcome to predict was the name of the winner of a Poker party.

b) Until evidence of the contrary, it seems that Robin Hanson was the first to set up and run a corporate prediction exchange —-at Xanadu, Inc., in April 1989. See: A 1990 Corporate Prediction Market + Anonymity is important for employees trading on internal prediction markets.

Robin Hanson: “-I started a market at Xanadu on cold fusion in April 1989. In May 1990, I started a market there on whether their product would be delivered before Deng died.”-

c) Until evidence of the contrary, it seems that Robin Hanson was the first to set up and run a bunch of imagination-based prediction markets. See the Murder Mystery Evening described by Barney Pell —-circa June 8, 1989.

d) Until evidence of the contrary, it seems that Robin Hanson was the first to write a paper on prediction markets created and existing primarily because of the information in their prices (as opposed to markets created primarily for speculation and hedging).

Could Gambling Save Science? –- (Reply to Comments) –- by Robin Hanson –- 1990-07-00
Market-Based Foresight: a Proposal –- by Robin Hanson –- 1990-10-30
Idea Futures: Encouraging an Honest Consensus –- (PDF) –- by Robin Hanson –- 1992-11-00

e) Robin Hanson godfathered the Foresight Exchange (created in 1994) and NewsFutures (created in 2000).

f) Robin Hanson invented the concepts of decision markets (PDF) and decision-aid markets.

g) Robin Hanson invented a new market design (for the 2000-2003′-s Policy Analysis Market), the Market Scoring Rules, a mix between CDA and Scoring Rules —-now in use for most enterprise prediction markets and public, play-money prediction exchanges. Note that MSR is mainly used in a one-dimension version, but many researchers are interested in its combinatorial version.

#4. Other Pioneering Public Prediction Exchanges (Betting Exchanges, Event Derivative Exchanges) and Inventors/Innovators/Entrepreneurs

a) The Foresight Exchange was founded on September 22, 1994 by Ken Kittlitz, Sean Morgan, Mark James, Greg James, David McFadzean and Duane Hewitt. The Foresight Exchange is a play-money prediction exchange (betting exchange) managed by an open group of volunteers. It pioneered user-created and user-managed, play-money prediction markets. Any person can join the Foresight Exchange and interact with the rest of the Web-based organization. An independent judge (independent from the owner of the claim) should be appointed among the volunteers. [Thus, it's not "DYI prediction markets".]

b) The Hollywood Stock Exchange was founded on April 12, 1996, by Max Keiser and Michael Burns. See the patent for the Virtual Specialist. For more info, see: Is HSX the “longest continuously operating prediction market”??? –- REDUX

c) BetFair was founded in 1999 by Andrew Black and Edward Wray, and was launched in England in June 2000. As of today, BetFair is the world’-s biggest prediction exchange (betting exchange, event derivative exchange).

d) NewsFutures was founded in March 2000 and launched in September 2000 in France and in April 2001 in the US by Emile Servan-Shreiber and Maurice Balick. See: NewsFutures Timeline. NewsFutures was the first exchange to let people buy or sell contracts for each side of a binary-outcome event. The advantage of this design is that it avoids the need for “-shorting”-, a notion that tends to confuse novice traders. NewsFutures later extend that approach to deal with n-ary outcome events while implementing automatic arbitrage.

e) TradeSports was launched in Ireland in 2002 by John Delaney. InTrade was later purchased and became a non-sports prediction exchange (betting exchange). As of today, InTrade is the biggest betting exchange on the North-American market —-where betting exchanges are still illegal. As for TradeSports, it closed at the end of 2008, alas.

#5. The Policy Analysis Market Brouhaha

a) Robin Hanson was the main economist behind the 2000–2003 US DoD’-s DARPA’-s IAO’-s FutureMAP–Policy Analysis Market project. (For this project, Robin Hanson invented a new market design, the Market Scoring Rules.) On July 28, 2003, two Democratic US Senators called for the termination of PAM, the the big media gave airtime to their arguments, and the US DOD quickly ended the IAO’-s FutureMAP program.

b) The second branch of the 2000–2003 US DoD’-s DARPA’-s IAO’-s FutureMAP program was handled by the Iowa Electronic Markets and was intended to predict the SARS pandemic. (This project later gave birth to IEM’-s Influenza Prediction Market.)

#6. James Surowiecki’-s The Wisdom Of Crowds

a) James Surowiecki’-s book, The Wisdom Of Crowds, was published in 2004.

b) Impact of The Wisdom Of Crowds.

#7. Recent Public Prediction Exchanges (Betting Exchanges, Event Derivative Exchanges) and Inventors/Innovators/Entrepreneurs

a) US-based and US-regulated HedgeStreet was launched in 2004 by John Nafeh, Russell Andersson, and Ursula Burger. A designated contract market (DCM) and a registered derivatives clearing organization (DCO), HedgeStreet is subject to regulatory oversight by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). In November 2006, IG Group bought HedgeStreet for $6 million.

b) Inkling Markets was launched in March 2006 and co-pioneered (with CrowdIQ, which later bellied up) the concept of DIY, play-money prediction markets.

c) In September 2006, TradeSports-InTrade was the first prediction exchange (betting exchange, event futures exchange) to apply Chris Masse’-s concept of X Groups. See: TradeSports-InTrade prediction markets on Bush approval ratings.

d) HubDub was launched in early 2008 and is the second most popular play-money prediction exchange, behind HSX.

#8. Enterprise Prediction Markets

a) Until evidence of the contrary, it seems that Robin Hanson was the first to set up and run a corporate prediction exchange —-at Xanadu, Inc., in April 1989. See: A 1990 Corporate Prediction Market + Anonymity is important for employees trading on internal prediction markets.

b) In the 1996–-1999 period, HP ran a series of internal prediction markets to forecast the sales of its printers.

c) Eli Lilly sponsored 10 public, industry-level prediction markets in April 2003 (on the NewsFutures prediction exchange).

d) Eli Lilly began using internal prediction markets in February 2004 (powered by NewsFutures).

e) Google‘-s Bo Cowgill published about their use of internal prediction markets in October 2005.

f) Since then, many companies selling software services for enterprise prediction markets have been created.

#9. Disputes Between Traders And Exchanges

a) The scandal of the North Korean Missile prediction market that erupted in July 2006 is, as of today, the biggest scandal that rocked the field of prediction markets.

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