With U.S. troops poised for an attack, President Bush has declared that for Iraq and Saddam Hussein, "The game is over."
The gaming continues — online, at least.
Think you know when Saddam will be booted from office?
… You can put your money where your mouth is at Dublin, Ireland-based Tradesports.com.
Convinced Saddam will be dead by June 30? Missing? "Smoking Cubans with buddy boy [Moammar Gadhafi]?"
… You can place your bets at Costa Rica-based BetonSports.com — though some critics question the tastefulness of such bets.
BetonSports.com — which spokesman Eddie King boasts represents "the visionaries of this business" of betting on everything from who will win Survivor to which rock stars will overdose this year — places odds of 3 to 2 Saddam will be dead by June 30, and 2 to 1 he'll be in exile or in U.S. custody.
Bettors also can wager on the timing of a U.S. attack.
Fans of longer odds might want to take the 5 to 1 action on the Gadhafi proposition, or 150 to 1 odds that he'll "travel to Calcutta and take up Mother Teresa's torch," "join the Backstreet Boys and tour with Elton John," or be seized by violent aliens who will claim him as a citizen of their planet.
"We've had a couple of people take the long shots," King said.
Those who scoff at such risky bets should know BetonSports.com is investigating whether a Vanity Fair article reporting that Michael Jackson wears a prosthetic nose is grounds for paying out to people who bet the singer's nose would fall off.
"We stand to pay out probably close to $15,000 on that, if it shows that Michael Jackson's nose really did fall off," King said.
King said this week that BetonSports.com had taken 8,000 to 10,000 bets for about $750,000 on Saddam and war prospects over the approximately three weeks questions have been posted on its site.
Tradesports.com, on the other hand, has taken more than 62,000 "trades" on Saddam's future as president since it began listing the propositions Sept. 24.
As of 10 a.m. ET today, the site's "traders" placed 35 percent odds Saddam would be gone as president of Iraq by the end of the month, 74 percent odds he would be deposed by the end of April, 81 percent odds he would be gone by the end of May, and 87 percent by the end of June. John Delaney, the site's CEO, said traders in the United States seemed more inclined to think Saddam would be gone sooner than traders elsewhere.
Tradesports.com considers itself a broker rather than a bookmaker, because rather than placing odds on propositions and taking bets, it lets subscribers set market prices and wager against each other, and then takes a commission.
Because of that, the odds of Saddam remaining in power at the end of each month fluctuate with news reports like the stock market does.
"They have been incredibly volatile," Delaney said. "As each new piece of information comes out … the odds and the futures change dramatically and quickly."
For instance, the odds moved "a full 11 percent" after Secretary of State Colin Powell's Feb. 5 speech to the United Nations, and then softened by around 7 percent after France, Germany and Belgium came out in favor of continued inspections, Delaney said. With war talk in the air, the odds have risen sharply in recent days, as well.