Betting with bitcoin: Site lets Americans gamble on elections, sports with online-only currency

And it’s all made possible by bitcoins. 

Meanwhile, three thousand people on are using bitcoins to bet on everything from politics to entertainment.  The site’s bettors suggest that the movie “12 Years a Slave” has a 60 percent chance of winning Best Picture; that Republicans have a 50 percent chance of taking the Senate in November; that Hillary Clinton has a 33 percent chance of becoming president in 2016; and that the U.S. It has no physical form in paper or coin; instead computers “mine” bitcoins by generating new ones at specific durations and depositing them into virtual bank accounts., which started last July, has the same model as Intrade – except that it accepts only bitcoins, allowing it to receive funds quickly from Americans despite regulations that forbid banks to transfer money to it.

“With all the legal problems and regulations, that made it almost impossible to start a prediction market. Too speculative for us,” CFTC spokesman Steven Adamske told, a new company from Ireland, offers a “prediction market” that allows people to bet on everything from the U.S. “At the moment, bitcoin doesn’t look so good on that.”

Hanson is also skeptical about the reach of the new prediction market.

“Once regulators decide the trades are illegal they have lots of things they can do to shut it down. Gambling and prediction markets are legal in Ireland.

- Eli Dourado, a tech policy researcher at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

“[Prediction markets can] have an adverse effect on the integrity of elections, for example by creating monetary incentives to vote for particular candidates even when such a vote may be contrary to the voter’s political views,” the 2012 CFTC order reads.

“The requirement to use the banking system meant that it was relatively easy for the U.S. During a political campaign, you may not know how to weight the different polls that come out, or how to interpret the bluster that emerges from each side, but the market price of each candidate on one of these sites represents a summary of what people who are willing to put their own money on the line believe.”

The digital currency bitcoin — once used to facilitate online drug deals — now appears to be enabling people to get around regulations banning online betting.

The CFTC recently sued the popular prediction market for operating without a license, which forced the site to shut down.

That is not how the government sees things.

‘I bet on the Seahawks and won a very modest amount of bitcoins.’

“I used Predictious to bet on the Super Bowl. When they do start to come up with them, we are going to try to proactively work with them,” Charlon said.

“You’d want the cash used to be something easily available to many potential users,” he said. has about a 50 percent chance of winning the most medals in the Sochi Winter Games.

The author of this piece, Maxim Lott, can be reached on twitter at @maximlott or at

“Irish regulators don’t have any guidelines regarding bitcoin yet. presidential election to the Olympics and the Oscars. Witness Silk Road,” Hanson added, referring to the online bitcoin-only drug market that survived anonymously for several years until the FBI identified the creator. is still small; Charlon said the total amount of bitcoins that customers have sent to the site is worth around $500,000.

Some prediction market experts, noting that the law generally does not specify what currency is used, are wary about whether betting with bitcoins can effectively escape government regulation.

He said that such markets would be good for society.

“I’m pretty sure that one can’t evade gambling or securities or commodities regulations by trading in francs or yen instead of dollars,” said Robin Hanson, an economics professor at George Mason University and the chief scientist at Consensus Point, which designs prediction markets that companies use to reach internal decisions..

Charlon said regulation is a concern, but Irish regulators have so far been fine. I bet on the Seahawks and won a very modest amount of bitcoins,” Eli Dourado, a tech policy researcher at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, told

Some Americans are happy to have a place to bet online.

Bitcoins are virtual currency unconnected to any country, unlike every other currency on earth. But when I found out about bitcoin I thought: ‘That’s the perfect thing for this.’ Almost right when I discovered bitcoin, I started to work on this project,” he said.

But Dourado is hopeful about bitcoin prediction markets.

Betting of this sort is a legal gray area in the U.S., where the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) decided in a 2012 regulatory order not to allow prediction markets on the grounds that they are “contrary to the public interest.”

While the CFTC forbids prediction markets that use cash, it is less certain that it will go after one that uses bitcoins.

The founder of, software developer Flavien Charlon, said he always wanted to create a prediction market, and that bitcoin solved the problem of transferring money.

“There is no way I can answer [that]. “It remains to be seen how much effort the government will want to invest in limiting bitcoin-based prediction markets, but since these markets could create a lot of value, I hope we can all come to a live-and-let-bet arrangement.”

“This is valuable information that the public should be free to access… government to regulate Intrade,” he said

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