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TheStreet Open House

Online Gamblers Place Bets on Hillary

Updated from 11:13 a.m. EDT

Are you ready for President Hillary?

The markets are. The political markets.

Political insiders have long known that if you really want to know what's going on in a campaign, you can't just look at the opinion polls.

You have to talk to the bookies. Get the odds.

And this time around, they're telling a story.

Political bookmakers report a surge in betting on Hillary Clinton to secure the Democratic nomination and to go on to win the November 2008 presidential election.

Barack Obama's support has faded dramatically since early spring, they say.

"The market is saying she has a lock on the nomination," says David Buik, commentator for the London-based betting exchange Cantor Spreadfair, a division of the trans-Atlantic financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald. "That's what the punters are telling us."

These days political betting doesn't rely on old-fashioned odds. Instead it uses online betting exchanges which operate like a regular financial market. You buy and sell "futures" in individual candidates just as you would oil futures or shares. The contracts pay $1 if the candidate ends up winning, and zero if they lose. So prices fluctuate between 0 and 100 cents, reflecting the candidates' perceived percentage chance of winning.

Thanks to the U.S. government's puritanical gambling laws, most of these exchanges operate in London or Dublin, Ireland, although the University of Iowa (quirkily) has an exemption to run a small electronic market.

To watch Janet Al-Saad's video take of this column, click here .

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