Castro becomes life-or-death bet on internet
04 August 2006
MIAMI: When will Fidel Castro die? If you want to, you can place your bets.
Since the Cuban president, one of the world's longest-serving leaders, announced on Monday he was handing power to his brother Raul, online wagering operations have offered action on the communist leader's fate.
BetUS.com posed the question bluntly, giving bettors a chance to pick the month, or the day of the week, that Castro will die.
"We don't want to profit on someone's death. But Castro is unique," Christopher Bennett, media relations director for BetUS.com, said.
"I personally wrestled with it. But ... this could have a huge effect on economics, foreign policy, trade. It's more than just someone passing away."
Another gaming site, BetCRIS.com, chose a less-direct route, giving bettors a chance to wager on whether Castro will make a public appearance by August 13, his 80th birthday.
Asked why his company didn't ask a straight "live" or "die" question, BetCRIS.com chief executive Mickey Richardson said: "I wouldn't want to be a part of that."
On bodog.com, another site, the question is: "Will Communist Cuban President Fidel Castro reassume control of Cuba by October 31st, 2006?"
Castro's health is the latest unusual wagering opportunity on Internet gaming sites that in the past have offered bets on whether Britney Spears was pregnant, whether Jimmy Hoffa's body would be found, how low President George W Bush's approval rating would go and other water-cooler gossip issues.
"We've been putting up popular culture, current events styles of wagering for the last two years," Richardson, whose company had taken about 100 bets on the Cuban president, said.
"Fidel Castro is a pretty dynamic figure that people are attracted to."
BetUS.com has taken nearly 3000 wagers on Castro so far, making his future one of the hottest bets ever, said Bennett. About 65 percent of them were placed from Internet addresses in the Miami area, home of some 650,000 people of Cuban descent, most of whom despise Castro and his communist revolution, he added.
"It's been quite explosive. It's an emotional hot button," he said.
Bettors are predicting Castro will die in September or October, Bennett said, with Miami-area hot money on September – still 28 days away.