Friday, September 26, 2008

Now for Something Completely Different: Intrade Betting is Suspicious

It's happened again. We see a link on another site, open it in a new tab and forget where we were tipped to what turns out to be a great post. Sorry. If it was your site, email us for linkage, tippage, and professions of lovage (not to be confused with lavage. Seriously)
There's something funny going on over at Intrade with respect to the pricing of the Obama and McCain contracts.

Right now, Obama is trading at 52.3 points. That is, Intrade implies that he has a 52.3 percent chance to become the next President.

Now, I happen to think that is a patently absurd price. But you don't have to take my word for it. Over at BetFair, another large UK-based gambling and futures site, you can also buy an Obama contract. But the price there is 1.62, which implies a 61.7 percent chance that Obama will become the next President.

That is a huge spread, 51.5 points versus 61.7 points. This is the equivalent of the Giants being 3-point favorites at the Bellagio Sportsbook, and 7-point favorites at the Mirage down the block. Those things just don't happen in efficient, sufficiently liquid markets, because they create arbitrage opportunities: you'd lay $10,000 on the Giants at the Bellagio and $10,000 on their opponents at the Mirage. Any time the Giants win by fewer than 3 points or more than 7 points, you lose nothing, since your two bets cancel out. But any time they win by fewer than 7 points but more than 3, you win both bets, and take home $20,000 (less the casino's vigorish) for absolutely no risk. Pretty good deal, right? That's exactly what's happening with these futures contracts....MUCH MORE (everything for the political junkie or for those who want to take financial advantage of one)

Here's Lovage "Book of the Month"
(don't adjust your set, we are in control here):