Is all this talk of climate change getting you down?

If we’re all going to fry, you might as well make a bit of cash trading on the doom and gloom. Well at least that’s what bookmakers reckon.

Aussie bookmaker Centrebet is the first to offer rainfall wagers in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s the most pure, untarnished and open market alive. Everyone’s an expert. Mums and dads might end up knowing more than the meteorological weather experts,” says Centrebet’s Neil Evans.

Or put another way, no-one’s really an expert either – and nothing makes a betting house happier.

Centrebet took bets on which Australian state would receive the most rainfall during the month of April 2008 and which leading New Zealand city would have the most rain in May 2008.

When the wager started, “the first favourite to have the biggest rainfall in April was Tasmania at $2.70, narrowly ahead of NSW (including ACT) at $2.85, followed by Victoria $5.00, Qld $5.75, NT $11.00, WA $21.00 and SA at $26.00,” says Evans.

“It was very successful…We took a total of $40,000 for the Australia bet and $20,000 for the NZ bet, which are great results for new books.”

Evans says Centrebet hopes to offer this type of wager again although sifting through all the meteorological forecasts and charts to create the wager and the price setting was “very time consuming”.

But some companies are struggling just to get approval for climate change bets.

Since water is a big issue in Australia, we’re “looking at putting markets up around the highest and lowest temperature per state and rainfall,” Sportingbet Australia betting manager Bill Richmond told Crikey – contingent on approval from the Northern Territory governing body.

Tabcorp spokesperson Nicholas Tzaferis says his company does not have approval to offer this kind of bet in the first place. “In Victoria and NSW, we have a range of sports we can offer bets on, but not the ‘novelty’ bet type such as climate or climate change issues,” says Tzaferis.

In the UK, where chatting about the weather is a national past-time, gaming company Betfair lets punters bet on what will be the highest recorded temperature in mainland UK during the summer month of July 2008.

Not surprisingly, the odds that temperatures will be higher than 32 Celsius are currently 4.8 compared with 16.5 that it will be 27 Celsius or lower.

Because Betfair is also registered as a gaming company in Australia, Aussie punters with an insatiable appetite for betting can also take part in those wagers by going to Betfair’s online gaming rooms.

However, “at this stage, we have no plans to offer similar bets on the Australian market,” says Andrew Twait, spokesperson for Betfair Australia.

Gaming company BetUS.com has taken wagers on climate change one degree higher (no pun intended), by allowing the public to place bets with odds of a 100 to 1 on the proposition that polar bear will become extinct by 2010.

Punters can also bet on whether Florida will be under water before 2011 or whether Antarctica will become livable for humans by 2015.

In an interview with LiveScience, spokesperson for BetUS, Reed Richards, said that thousands of people had already placed money on global warming bets, with $US10 being the average wager.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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