The Promise of Prediction Markets – by Kenneth J. Arrow, Robert Forsythe, Michael Gorham, Robert Hahn, Robin Hanson, John O. Ledyard, Saul Levmore, Robert Litan, Paul Milgrom, Forrest D. Nelson, George R. Neumann, Marco Ottaviani, Thomas C. Schelling, Robert J. Shiller, Vernon L. Smith, Erik Snowberg, Cass R. Sunstein, Paul C. Tetlock, Philip E. Tetlock, Hal R. Varian, Justin Wolfers, and Eric Zitzewitz – 2008-05-XX
#1. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the federal regulatory agency that oversees futures market activity, should establish safe-harbor rules for selected small-stakes markets. One limited safe harbor is the no-action letter, in which the CFTC market oversight staff confirms in writing that it will not recommend enforcement action if the recipient acts in specified ways. The only prediction market to receive a no-action letter (in 1992) is the Iowa Electronic Markets, which is run by professors at the University of Iowa and which initially focused on presidential elections. Although such no-action letters reduce the chances of legal action under other state and federal laws, they may not be adequate. We would therefore urge the CFTC to explore other approaches to ensuring safe harbors, for example, formal rules or guidance approved by the commission. We suggest that three types of entities be eligible for safe harbor treatment. The first would be not-for-profit research institutions, including universities, colleges and think tanks wishing to operate exchanges similar to the Iowa Electronic Markets. The second would be government agencies seeking to do research similar to that of nongovernmental research institutions. The third group would consist of private businesses and not-for-profits that are not primarily engaged in research, which would only be allowed to operate internal prediction markets with their employees or contractors. In all cases, markets would be limited to small-stakes contracts. Although the definition of small stakes is somewhat arbitrary, we use the term to mean an exchange in which the total amount of capital deposited by any one participant may not exceed some modest sum, perhaps something like $2,000 per year. The exchanges themselves would be not-for-profit but would be allowed to charge modest fees to recoup administrative and regulatory costs. Brokers and paid advisers would be barred, reducing the risks that contracts would be sold to inappropriate or vulnerable customers or that customers would be charged fees above the amounts needed to maintain the markets. Exchanges would be self-regulated, leaving them with the responsibility to make reasonable efforts to keep markets free from fraud and manipulation. For its part, the CFTC should allow contracts that price any economically meaningful event. This definition could allow for contracts on political events, environmental risks, or economic indicators, such as those offered by the Iowa Electronic Markets, but would presumably not include contracts on the outcomes of sports events.
The contracts qualifying under this safe harbor would also create opportunities for more efficient risk allocation. Although the small-stakes nature of these markets would necessarily limit their usefulness for hedging risk, they could serve as proofs of concept for larger-scale markets that could be developed under alternative regulatory arrangements. The CFTC should allow researchers to experiment with several aspects of prediction markets – fee structures, incentives against manipulation, liquidity requirements and the like – with the goal of improving their design. Prediction markets are in an early stage, and if their promise is to be realized, researchers should be given flexibility to learn what kinds of design are most likely to produce accurate predictions. Of course, exchanges would need to inform their customers so that they are aware of the risks and benefits of participating in these markets.
#2. Congress should support the CFTC’s efforts to develop prediction markets. To the extent that the CFTC incurs costs in promoting innovation, Congress should provide the necessary funding. More fundamentally, Congress should explore alternative ways of securing a legal framework for prediction markets if the CFTC’s existing authority proves inadequate. In particular, Congress should specify that a no-action letter, or similar mechanism, preempts overlapping state and federal anti-gambling laws. Because Congress did not intend the CFTC to regulate gambling, it is important to design new regulations so that socially valuable prediction markets easily qualify for the safe harbor but gambling markets do not.
UPDATE: A great rebuttal here…-
THE MIDAS ORACLE TAKES:
– CALL TO ACTION: Let’-s fight so that the CFTC allows the FOR-PROFIT prediction exchanges to deal with “-event markets”-.
– In the for-profit vs not-for-profit debate, our prediction market luminaries, doctored by Bob, are on the wrong side of the issue.
– COMMENTS TO THE CFTC: What to expect from Tom W. Bell and Jason Ruspini
– A young economist rebuts the American Enterprise Institute.
– CFTC’s Concept Release on the Appropriate Regulatory Treatment of Event Contracts…- notably how they define “-event markets”-, how they are going to extend their “-exemption”- to other IEM-like prediction exchanges, and how they framed their questions to the public. Here are the comments sent to the CFTC.
– The Arnold &- Porter lawyers explain the meaning of the CFTC’-s concept release on “-event markets”-. —- (PDF file)
– The Schulte &- Roth &- Zabel lawyers’- takes. —- (PDF file)
– The Sullivan &- Cromwell lawyers’- takes. —- (PDF file)
– What Vernon Smith told the CFTC.
Paul Wolfowitz’-s profile at the American Enterprise Institute
– How the neo-cons drove the United States of America into the unecessary Iraq war