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

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Will happen in 2010.

Bye bye UIGEA.

FanDuel (by HubDub) is launched exclusively thru TechCrunch UK, which is, of course, upbeat on its future. Heres a more critical take.

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HubDub is a huge success in term of Internet popularity (pageviews, time spent on the site, etc.). However, HubDub has no business model, other than trying to get bought up by some bigger fish. Which is why Nigel Eccles and his smart team have devised a social fantasy sport game, FanDuel. Its business model (allowed under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006) is simple: you pay to play. &#8211-&gt- $$$

The problem with FanDuel&#8216-s simple business model (selling social gaming services over the Internet) is that, unlike HubDub (which is free to play), there won&#8217-t be free publicity generated on the Web &#8212-other than the TechCrunch UK post. Just because you have a business model does not mean that you have a marketing strategy.

The best marketing strategy you can have on the Internet is a dual one:

  1. Give away content, software, or means for people to connect with each other
  2. Sell something else (to the same people or to other people).

Since FanDuel won&#8217-t be free, it won&#8217-t generate any buzz on the Web. [UPDATE: See Nigel Eccles’s comment, just below.]

Nigel Eccles is proud of the fact that his team crafted FanDuel in a matter of weeks. But have they thought long enough about marketing strategy?

Addendum:

The FanDuel press release:

SHAKING UP THE FANTASY SPORTS INDUSTRY

New Fantasy Sports Game Lets You Play Today, Win Today

There are at least 20 million of us playing fantasy sports every year and yet in recent years it has seen very little innovation. For many, one of the major problems with fantasy sports is the huge time-commitment involved &#8211- when you play fantasy, you have to play for the whole season – no breaks, no holidays, no excuses. However, in this era of Facebook and Twitter, people want instant gratification.

This issue is tackled head on by FanDuel.com, a new fantasy sports game which launches today. FanDuel.com lets us play and win in a day instead of waiting the whole season. Players can draft a new team at any time, and pitch it head-to-head against an opponent – a friend, or another FanDuel player – for real money. The player whose team has the most fantasy points at the end of the day’s games wins the cash prize. It’s purely fantasy baseball right now, but the fantasy football game will launch with the start of the football season.

Clever integration with sites like Facebook means that picking opponents is slick, as is bragging about your wins. This is a first for the fantasy sports industry which has been dominated by the big players such as Yahoo, CBS and ESPN for too long.

The game is a competitive draft rather than salary cap – making it much more challenging. However unlike traditional competitive draft both players don’t have to draft at the same time. The way it works is one player drafts their first pick and a back-up for each position. They then order their draft and submit their roster. When they are matched with another user (a friend or another FanDuel user) the system works through each player’s draft in priority order. You get an email telling you and your opponent’s final roster and then you can watch the live stats on both fantasy teams update in real-time as the games progress.

Online social gaming is already well developed but the daily fantasy sports market is quite new. Nigel Eccles, CEO of the company behind FanDuel, admits, “After playing Mafia Wars and other social games on Facebook, going back to playing traditional fantasy sports on CBS felt like going back in time. We felt we could build something faster, more social and exciting.”

Thanks to the fantasy sports carve out of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Act [Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006], FanDuel.com is perfectly legal to play in the US – something that the team behind FanDuel have been very careful to adhere to. FanDuel offers free and paid entry games with users able to enter $5, $10 and $25 competitions.

http://www.fanduel.com/

Barney Frank is going to try again to free Internet betting and gambling in the U.S.

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Via Smarkets, the FT.

The FT.

PS: Contra Jason Ruspini, I have always said that the CFTC route is the wrong route. The U.S. should establish a kind of &#8220-Gambling and Betting Commission&#8221-, like in the U.K., in my view (and Caveat Bettor&#8217-s view).

TradeSports ceases its operations.

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TradeSports will terminate itself on November 28, 2008.

A very sad day (which I am not glad to report that I predicted would happen). TradeSports is probably the latest victim of both the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and the Louisiana prosecutors. It is also the victim of a lack of support from the prediction market luminaries. As for the pertinence of the InTrade-TradeSports splitting that was started in 2007, I leave this issue to the business historians.

InTrade (which does not float event derivatives on sports) is caught in the same regulatory net, but CEO John Delaney hopes that the CFTC could soon legalize event derivative exchanges &#8212-except those on sports. That is far from certain, though. And InTrade&#8217-s heyday is now over. See you in 2012, for the next presidential election.

The Sporting Exchange (which operates BetFair) is making a very different bet: the United States of America will one day legalize the betting exchanges and the trading on sports. That is a reasonable, long-term bet. But not all the Democratic legislators favor Internet gambling and betting &#8212-far from it. We will see.

The future is spelled &#8220-BetFair&#8221-, but many of my readers don&#8217-t like the way they display odds &#8212-Americans prefer probabilities.

Barney Franks Payment System Protection Act (HR6870)

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&#8230- is a shitty bill&#8230- 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&#8217-t) should not be granted a license. Hummm&#8230-

EXTERNAL LINK: iMEGA

THANKS: Tip via mister Emile of NewsFutures

The Case for Decrimininalization of Prediction Markets

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

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 &#8220-betting exchanges&#8221- 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. &#8220-Shares&#8221- 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 &#8220-terrorist strike market&#8221-, unveiled a little too close to 9/11 to be palatable to the general public. The official name was the &#8220-Policy Analysis Market&#8220-, 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 &#8220-grotesque&#8221- and &#8220-stupid&#8221-, 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 &#8220-gambling&#8221-. 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 &#8220-no-action letter&#8221- 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 &#8220-illegal&#8221- 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

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

Playing fantasy sports is not gambling. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act includes a specific exemption for fantasy sports, provided the prizes are determined in advance and the imaginary teams dont correspond to any real teams.

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New York Post

I expect TradeSports and BetFair to join this industry, one day.