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Explore:  CFTC

[author: James G. Gatto]

Due to "legal and regulatory pressure" Dublin-based Intrade will no longer accept bets from US customers and all existing US customers must exit their trades and close their accounts. Intrade operates a real-money based prediction market. This announcement from Intrade came just hours after U.S. regulators filed a civil complaint against it.

This action is another example of how gambling and gambling related activities are being subject to regulatory scrutiny. This trend is important for companies to note, particularly as a broader range of companies get involved in on line gambling. This is also important for companies involved in "gamblification." Gamblification is the use of gambling mechanics for non-gambling purposes, i.e, leveraging the fun of gambling without real money at stake. Gamblification raises a whole host of legal issues, of which companies leveraging this phenomena must be aware.

The lawsuit was filed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which accused Intrade and its parent company of violating its ban on off-exchange options trading, by enabling users to bet on predictions relating to commodities prices. But commodity trading is just one aspect of Intrade's business. Intrade's prediction market also enables users to bet on "predictions," ranging from who will win presidential elections or Academy Awards or whether a dictator will be toppled by a certain date.

"It is against the law to solicit U.S. persons to buy and sell commodity options, even if they are called "prediction" contracts, unless they are listed for trading and traded on a CFTC-registered exchange or unless legally exempt," Enforcement Director David Meister said in a statement. However, the CFTC has previously rejected exchange applications from companies that wanted to sell options on political outcomes, because they involve gaming and are contrary to the public interest.

A number of US-based companies operate prediction market platforms that enable users to make predictions on a range of activities, but sports-related predictions are among the most popular. However, most of these platforms do not enable users to wager and/or win real-money. Some use virtual currency that users "wager" in connection with a prediction, but usually the virtual currency cannot be cashed out. The "win" that keeps users coming back is the bragging rights for those who are most accurate in their predictions.

While many of these models steer clear of the gambling laws, they must be done right to avoid crossing the line. Getting it right is especially tricky when virtual goods and/or currency are involved. Pillsbury's social media team has prepared a client advisory on gamblification and the use of virtual goods/currency in these gamblification models. For a copy email us.