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Snake Oil & Widgets: Top 5 Controversial Betting Market Faux-Pas

TAGs: Brazil, Christopher Wren, CIA, DARPA, Editorial, Germany, Isis mobile wallet solution, Paddy Power, pr, Snake Oil & Widgets, tom galanis

Snake Oil & Widgets: Top 5 Controversial Betting Market Faux-PasAll PR is good PR, right? Well, you won’t find me agreeing with that. You may not have noticed the unfortunate folks at Isis mobile wallet solution rebranding this week to distance themselves from their namesake militant group. You have to wonder if the unfortunate iGaming operator Isis Friends will be following suit in the not-too-distant future. My heart really does go out to that poor brand whizz, who had no doubt been waiting their entire career to put the good name of the Ancient Egyptian goddess, the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden but somehow also pally with the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers, in to practice and into the columns of Brand Republic.

One company not averse to thrashing the PR horse is Paddy Power. Back in March, they got in to a bit of hot water in the UK press for running a promotion and odds on the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. It’s not the first time they’ve done something that touches a collective raw nerve and they’ll be doing it again in no time, one would imagine. Untouchable, unless the Paddy Powerful jihadist group does anything silly.

Paddy’s are not the only ones to have dabbled in controversial betting markets. Here is my top 5 ever:

5. Paddy Power – Oscar Pistorius

The story that just wouldn’t go away. Paddy Power just rode it out until they could come up with something to take the sting out of the media criticism and the ASA slaps… the Next Animal to be Killed at Copenhagen Zoo market.

4. Scientists – Wren owes Newton

In 1684, the famed architect Christopher Wren announced that he would lay a bet worth 40 shillings (equivalent to about £270 in today’s money) to anyone who could deduce Kepler’s laws from the inverse-square law. Up stepped Isaac Newton, who was obviously short of a few bob, who went on to prove why the planets orbited elliptically. It took him a bit longer than the stipulated 2 months and Wren didn’t pay up. Still, Newton’s gift of laying the groundwork for modern astronomy and physics in general probably offset Wren’s tight fistedness but hey—a bet’s a bet.

3. The CIA – Data Security Book

That’s right! there was a time, very recent in fact, when the Feds loved the idea of taking bets. In 2011 around the same time as Black Friday, technical analysts deployed by the CIA spent months setting up books to be used as prediction markets to gain foresight into future events in cryptography research, cyber threats, and even data security-related regulation.

It hasn’t (or so we’re told) got off the ground, not least because of that darn legal barrier to taking bets. Would have been handy for those poor folks behind Isis (of the mWallet and iGaming varieties).

2. The Pentagon – Terrorism Betting

In fact, taking bets to predict global events goes way back to pre-9/11 times. This time it was the CIA’s cousins at the Pentagon whose sub-division, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had hoped to build foresight in running a small-stakes betting parlor for speculation on geopolitical events.

The concept was canned (although evidently picked up 10 years later by the CIA)… Critics said it was immoral for Americans to run a book on death and destruction abroad.

1. The poor (in every sense) Betfair punter who laid Germany to beat Brazil 7-1 for £13 at 999/1.

Not sure it gets much worse than this.

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