As the 2024 Race Heats Up, Betting Is Growing for Everything but Elections

I can’t watch a basketball game on TV without seeing ads urging me to place a bet on one app or another.

I can’t walk down the street in New York City without seeing ads about the latest lottery jackpot.

And when I sit at my desk in the office, I spend hours studying another type of betting — trading in financial markets, where you can place wagers on companies, bonds, commodities and derivatives of all descriptions.

Yet the most consequential betting of all — wagers on elections in the United States — may soon be shut down by regulators.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has ordered a ban on such betting on the financial exchanges known as prediction markets, where it’s possible to make wagers on who will win the 2024 presidential election and on a host of other matters. And the commission’s proposed new rule would give it the power to block trading on a broad range of other subjects.

Even so, the prediction markets, which allow people to place bets on the outcome of a wide range of events, including American elections, are fighting back in the courts. And despite the regulatory crackdown, many markets are open and running.

I’ve used prediction markets for years — never for trading but as a source of information gleaned from prices that represent the collective wisdom of thousands of people. All market pricing needs to be analyzed with a heavy dose of skepticism, of course, yet these markets are a useful adjunct to polls, economic and political models and traditional reporting, especially in a fraught election year like this one.

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