Betting bin Laden: Terrorist's death makes money, boosts Obama's odds

May 2, 2011 |
bin Laden's death has Obama's re-election odds soaring.
bin Laden's death has Obama's re-election odds soaring.
At 9 p.m. ET, Sunday, Osama bin Laden had a four percent chance of being captured or killed before June, according to Intrade.com’s prediction market that allows investors to buy and sell shares in the outcome of real-world events.

By the time, U.S. President Barack Obama made the news of bin Laden’s demise official at around 11:20 ET, the market had spiked to 98 percent and was closed quickly.

But there weren’t any really big winners or losers in the market. The bin Laden proposition was one of the smallest markets offered  by Intrade and had seen minimum movement before Sunday, according to Carl Wolfenden, Intrade’s Exchange Operations Manager.

“When news broke there was a flurry of activity, and the price jumped,” Wolfenden told Covers.com. “But trading volumes were small once word was out - there wasn't really anyone out there willing to take a position that bin Laden wasn't dead.”

Obama’s odds of winning the 2012 presidential election also soared, but not before a few alert wise guys got their bets down.

Before the news broke, Obama was a -175 favorite to be the next President of the United States at the offshore sportsbook Bodog.com.

“A few sharps beat us to it,” said Bodog manager Richard Gardner, who adjusted Obama’s odds to -250 early this morning. “We took only a handful of bets overnight; guess the news was too late for most people.”

Bodog has a $100 limit on the presidential odds. The limits will increase closer to election, Gardner said.

At Intrade, Obama’s chances of winning a second term in 2012 had been holding at “58-60 percent for a good couple of months,” said Wolfenden.

They shot to as high as 69.9 percent but had settled back at 63 percent as of noon Monday. The volume of trades doubled after the news, according to Wolfenden.

Proposition wagers on bin Laden’s capture or killing have been offered for years. The online sportsbook Sports Interaction offered a prop bet on whether or not bin Laden would be captured during George W. Bush’s term as president.

At Intrade, the bin Laden market was one of its oldest and been opened since the U.S. sent forces into Afghanistan.

“Occasionally, we’d see a little spike if (bin Laden’s) name is in the paper or there was news of a sighting, but generally there wasn’t a lot of movement.”
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