Think that a major hurricane will rain down death and destruction on the United States this year? Well, thanks to the Internet, you can now put some money on the proposition. This Knight Ridder story is all over the place, but I think the Sun Herald nailed the headline:
While ever-diligent South Floridians stockpile hurricane supplies and prepare the shutters for this year’s storm season, strange forces speculate on their misery.
Online and around the world, people are betting on the Atlantic hurricane season, wagering on how many strong storms will make landfall this year, and at what strength.
Several sites are now offering 1 to 5 odds that a Category 3 storm or higher will hit the United States this year.
Those numbers closely match official forecasts from the National Hurricane Center, which predicted last month that four to six major storms will make landfall by December.
Oddsmakers use meteorological data, including Colorado State University professor William Gray’s annual forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season, as well as historical data to determine the likelihood of storm strikes.
But professional forecasters, who view their job as a public service, say that’s not what they have in mind when they issue predictions.
Mickey Richardson, CEO of BetCris.com, a Costa Rica-based site offering several hurricane-related propositions, said the idea of betting on calamities seemed depraved at first. But customers demanded the wagers.
“We had to wrestle with it. Some people view it as a morbid thing to offer,” he said of his site’s storm-season bets. “But we can’t stop hurricanes. There’s been a true interest in it from the public.”
Richardson, along with CEOs of other sites, including Wagerweb.com, said they’ve refused to take bets on destruction or casualties.
The Sun Herald | 06/06/2006 | No shortage of ghouls willing to bet on next hit
I did an interview about this with an AP reporter earlier this week, and I predict that, if she couldn’t get anyone better, I’ll be in the “resident expert” slot that psychology prof Andy Meyers has in this article.
Personally, I think betting on hurricanes is pretty morbid, but at least we’re not betting on disease mortalityrates, as happened as late as the 1790s in the United States.
As far as using gambling as a way to become “part of an event,” as someone who grew up in Atlantic City, where hurricanes aren’t unknown, I’m grateful that I’ve never been in a hurricane (except Gloria, but that didn’t pack much punch by the time it reached us). And I don’t think too many people were lining up last September to join the fun in New Orleans or the Gulf Coast.
I can’t imagine what a desolate personal life one would have to feel this way:
Someone in Nebraska is unlikely to face a Category 4 storm, but wagering on that storm can help justify – and enliven – hours spent watching wall-to-wall coverage on CNN and The Weather Channel.
“Now I get to count how many storms, how big they are and when they hit. Gambling… draws you into a level of involvement you might not otherwise have in activities,” Meyers said.
The only thing more disturbing was that one of the betting site operators said that he would bet against a hurricane hitting, “hoping my bet will keep the storms away.”
Yes–the complex system dynamics of weather can indeed be affected by someone betting on the under. At least in the bizarro world of superstitious sports bettors.
It’s possible, on the other hand, that there truly is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in science. Maybe God does play dice with the universe, and the key is to bet with the bank.