Wednesday 13 December 2017

Site had carved out niche for itself that US pundits trusted

INTRADE may mean little to the average Dubliner, but to US pundits the site was a trusted and invaluable tool, especially in the political field.

By allowing anyone to place a bet on a binary choice – will Barack Obama be re-elected as president, for example – it brought the wisdom of the crowd to the prediction business.

On Monday morning it had Archbishop Angelo Scola as favourite to be Pope with a 25pc chance. Cardinal Peter Turkson was second with an 18pc shot, while there was a 63pc likelihood of a Democrat succeeding Mr Obama in the White House.

By focusing its attention on non-sports events, it carved out a niche for itself and was unrivalled in the US market.

That brought it unwelcome attention from regulators, however. Last year the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission forced it to stop taking money from people in the US, claiming it was an unregulated futures market – something that is illegal under US law.

The loss of its biggest country had a predictable effect on its customer numbers. About a million contracts were exchanged on the site in 2012, but that figure was barely above 50,000 by the end of February this year.

It was not clear if that probe was directly responsible for the decision to cease trading, however, and its auditors had raised concerns about payments made to accounts controlled by former chief executive John Delaney without proper paperwork.

News of the site's cessation was met with dismay in US media.

Ezra Klein of the 'Washington Post' called it "the last, best hope for pundit accountability".

Joe Weisenthal of BusinessInsider.com meanwhile said that the site was "awesome" for the way in which it had created a market "where popular thinking was quantified".

Irish Independent

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