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Website offers legal gambling on Wisconsin elections, hundreds of other political events

As states grapple with questions of legalizing sports betting, one website is allowing gamblers to place their money on politics.

A university in New Zealand runs PredictIt, a site with hundreds of political events to wager on, including Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin's re-election.

Paul Ryan has several available bets too, such as whether he'll remain Speaker of the House and whether he'll run for President in 2020.

The presidential election has a lot of action available: everything from betting on the Democratic nominee to if celebrities like the Rock or Oprah Winfrey will run.

Some Wisconsinites think the concept of political gambling could help create informed voters.

"Maybe it will get people to pay more attention and follow along a little more closely," said Alex Pytlik, who's not interested in betting himself.

Ivan Ascher, a UW-Milwaukee political science professor, isn't sold on the idea.

"They start to care about their money more than the thing itself," he said.

Ascher questions whether treating politics like a spectator sport is healthy for a democracy.

"One of the downsides is it actually leads to a fairly impoverished understanding of what politics is or could be, because we're limited in our imagination by the fact that we're looking for events that can or cannot happen," Ascher said.

PredictIt is able to operate legally because it's not-for-profit and the university is using it for academic research on the value of markets as predictors.

For every bet placed, there's another bet on the opposite position. Wagers can be traded like a stock market.

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