Last year, more than 50,000 users logged onto Intrade, the world's largest prediction market site, to bet on "markets" ranging from elections to the Academy Awards. Currently the most popular market is the prospective fall of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, garnering close to $100,000 in wagers. Markets regarding the fates of other Middle Eastern leaders have been nearly as hot, according to Intrade CEO John Delaney. (See Intrade charts below.)
Delaney also noted an inordinately high number of visitors to his platform from the Middle East. One online speculator saw opportunity to "make a killing... or lead to one." Such prediction markets can also provide a singular glimpse into the future, especially with regard to political outcomes.
As Delaney says, "Prediction markets are often more accurate than alternative methods such as polls as people are financially incentivized with US dollars to tell the truth. They say what they think will happen on Intrade as distinct from what they would like to happen to a pollster."
Below are Intrade's latest odds in the form of prices representing gamblers' collective take on the likelihood of each event's occurrence. For instance, the 48.9 last price on "Ali Abdullah Saleh to no longer be President of Yemen before midnight ET 31 Dec 2011" means the market sees a 48.9 percent chance of the event transpiring, or a 51.1 percent chance of Saleh retaining the palace in Sana'a.