Betting and chips

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How do you like these odds?

Bernie Sanders is betting his war chest of campaign contributions that his presidential run will have real consequences, whether that means a seat at the table at the Democratic National Convention or the nomination itself. But thanks to a wide array of online gambling options, his political fate could actually be an economic stimulus in its own right.

Nearly every ambiguously legal gambling hub allows for wagers on the presidential election, but one site stands out for its academic approach: PredictIt, an online betting marketplace established by professors from some of the nation's top research universities with the goal of measuring the accuracy of gamblers' predictions with those of pollsters.

PredictIt works more like a stock market than a traditional gambling site, with users buying and selling shares instead of merely waiting for the results to cash out. The bet cap is $850 and the site limits the user base to 5,000, choices that were made to increase control over the experiment.

So how much does it cost to feel the Bern? Currently, PredictIt places Sanders at 12 cents to Hillary Clinton's 88 cents, meaning a bet of 12 cents would pay out $1 should Sanders win the nomination. That means at current rates, an $850 bet could theoretically earn a bettor $7,083.33.

Other markets are much less optimistic, with betting aggregator Oddschecker.com showing many sites offering 14/1 odds on Sanders, meaning that $850 bet could earn you nearly $13,000. A win in the California primary could significantly shift those odds, but PredictIt also considers that victory a long shot, at 34 cents per share.

On the other side of the aisle, the Republican nomination is still a live market even though Donald Trump is only candidate left in the race and has already earned enough delegates to avoid a contested convention. A share of Trump costs 94 cents, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush each hanging on at 1-cent bets.

This means that, despite the almost literal certainty that Trump will receive the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, there's still a profit to be made on his candidacy.

The vice-presidential markets are significantly less assured bets, with a broader spread of options. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (21 cents) and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (15 cents) lead the Republican pack, followed by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst (9 cents), Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (8 cents), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (7 cents). On the Democratic side, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the strongest candidate (21 cents), followed by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (17 cents), Sanders (13 cents), and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (12 cents).

Although national elections are the most active markets on the site, armchair pundits can also wager on policy initiatives, impeachments, appointments, and resignations.

The market predicts that Clinton won't face charges for using a private email server while serving as secretary of state (69 cents), that North Carolina won't repeal its anti-transgender "bathroom bill" (67 cents), and that the Senate won't vote on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland (62 cents).

Things also don't look good for new overtime-pay rules (3 cents) or a minimum-wage hike (9 cents), and the market expects to see Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell retain his post as Senate majority leader through the rest of 2016 (87 cents).

Perhaps the most compelling odds are on the market for the general election. Much has been made of Clinton's weakness in a matchup against Trump, but PredictIt still puts her significantly ahead in the marketplace, with 59 cents to Trump's 38. Even with polls showing that her moderate policies compare less favorably to Trump than Bernie's socialist philosophy, the forces of capitalism are still on her side.

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2016 election
Top political prediction market is betting big against Rand 2016
Follow the money, predict the future. That’s the idea behind prediction markets, websites where you can bet money on anything from the outcome of an election to the result of war. These markets get the outcomes right more often than polls or pundits ever do—an important thing to remember as we dive head first into 2016 election season.
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