Before I start bitching about Predictit, I want you to know this is not a sad sack’s story of losing a big hand on the river or of a sure fire bet turning to mush because the kicker missed a gimme field goal.
No, in fact, PredictIt has been very, very good to me. I’ve posted several times on Twitter actual profits I’ve won on PredictIt, especially after making long bets on Joe Biden winning in places like Arizona and Georgia. (The Peach State has been particularly opportune because they keep recounting votes, providing additional opportunities to make money on the outcomes.)
There is also A LOT of money to be made from the MAGA crowd. Loyal to a fault in this case, these guys and gals have bought so heavily into their President’s insistence that he won the election and his various legal challenges will bear that out that they continue to wager actual money on races that have long since been called.
All of that said though, here’s why you should consider pulling your money out of PredictIt, right f-ing now.
The website, the only legal betting exchange for political races in the U.S., crashed on Election Night, a period of time that should have been its busiest ever.
Betting activity on Election Night was, as expected, extraordinarily heavy, resulting in the exchange going offline, completely, for more than four hours. It went down again the day after Election Day.
Bettors were enraged when they expected to hop on to buy and sell shares of the 2020 outcome. That could have had dire consequences for many who watched as early results showed Donald Trump dominating, but saw that lead evaporate into the early morning hours of Nov. 4 as more votes were counted. A lot were forecasting that’s exactly what would happen, but were unable to capitalize on that bet because the site was down.
Admittedly, I had a good deal of money invested in PredictIt when the site went down on Election Night.
It impacted several Florida-centric markets. Like many, I could not buy or sell shares. Certainly hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost.
Some of the markets I was unable to tap into were on the Florida presidential vote margin, which party would win in the state and which party would win in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.
To date, there has been no explanation from PredictIt about what happened. All they’ve done is offer direction to a Byzantine claims resolution process that would impress even Kafka.
In the wake of PredictIt’s crash, at least one high-profile staffer left the organization.
Will Jennings, the spokesman for the company and the public face of a faceless organization, left the company the day after the Election.
At first Jennings linked his leaving to the crash, writing that it was always in the works, but after it happened it “made the decision to leave more clear.”
After Florida Politics further inquired about what PredictIt planned to do to make traders who lost money whole, Jennings clarified that “nothing in my last email suggested any wrongdoing on the part of PredictIt or any of its staff, and my decision to leave was made long before the election and there is email traffic to prove it.”
Sounds like someone was worried about violating his NDA.
Florida Politics has attempted to contact officials at PredictIt, first as a trader, then in this reporting capacity to get further clarification about what the company planned to do correct for the crash on Election Night, but to no avail. Because PredictIt was an advertiser on FP, we even went so far as to offer our platform as a place where PredictIt could explain what happened on Election Night.
For the record, Jennings preemptively insists his first comments about his leaving were off the record, but FP had not agreed to those terms before Jennings sent his initial statement.
But this isn’t about Jennings or me or what’s the final margin of victory in Georgia, this is about an unregulated market that may warrant further scrutiny.
It begs a lot of questions about would-be scenarios. There won’t be as big a day as Election Day, but there’s still the inauguration and a lot of speculation about how that might go down. Will Trump show up? Will he be dragged from the White House residence kicking and screaming? Will he make a big to-do about Biden’s inauguration crowd size, one that could be dwarfed by COVID-19 precautions? And what about future contests … the 2022 mid-terms, 2024?
Just like sports books can’t expect to stay in business if they screw up on the Super Bowl, sports’ biggest betting event, PredictIt certainly cannot expect to keep its traders’ trust if it screws up on Election Day of the biggest presidential contest in modern history.
This was their Super Bowl, and the kicker missed his gimme field goal.