Can betting predict terrorism?
By paul, the Irish online betting exchange, saw a big rise in “Saddam capture future” bets before Christmas, before his capture. It seems that the aggregated bets of punters the world over could be a way of predicting future terrorist acts, if experts such as Dr Vernon Smith of George Madison University, Virginia, US: According to Vernon: “It may sound weird, but intellectually, the idea is legitimate,” Vernon said. “Markets can collect huge amounts of diverse and hidden information. They should be harnessed to protect – and even help prevent – future atrocities.”

In light of the failings of US and UK intelligence failings before 9/11 and in the run-up to the Iraq war, any method of gleaning valuable information should, in theory, be welcomed. But the Pentagon tried the same thing with FutureMAP (Futures Markets Applied to predictions). This was, effectively, an online exchange whereby anybody – intelligence figures or terrorists – could place bets on the chances of coups, assassinations and terrorist attacks. However, the project was dropped before it began trading.

As for the market in Saddam futures,’s founder John Delaney said: “That particular market became so overheated it had to close.” The amount bet on Saddam’s capture ran into “tens of millions of dollars”.

Although Tradesports does not divulge information on individual punters, it does provide aggregated information to intelligence agencies, Delaney said.

The idea has one or two slight flaws ‘though –a spike in betting could indicate a potential attack – or could be a smokescreen to deflect attention elsewhere. And, although Islamic fundamentalists are likely to be among the favoured sources of information, the Koran is pretty clear that gambling is off limits…

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