There is a new kind of internet betting in the United States which is specifically targeting university students. Through a website called Ultrinsic, students can now put money down on their own academic performance – basically, they are betting that they will get good grades in their classes.
Ultrinsic’s website doesn’t call it gambling, and they’re probably right. Since a student’s grades are in their control, they’re not betting on an unknown or unpredictable outcome. Instead, Ultrinsic calls it “motivation”.
“I think if it motivates students to put all of their energy into their studies, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Ultrinsic CEO Steven Wolf. “You can gamble on something like dice, and it’s a meaningless thing. But the substance of what you’re dealing with here is education — which we all know is extremely important.”
Ultrinsic was launched last year, and is now set up to work with 36 of the top US universities, including several Ivy League schools like Rutgers and Princeton. Students register for free, and then give Ultrinsic permission to access their school records.
In essence, Ultrinsic works much like an online sportsbook in the USA. The site calculates odds based on several factors, including the student’s past history, the difficulty of the subject, and how full their academic schedule is.
Despite its similarity with sports betting, Ultrinsic is not in violation of any American gambling laws.
“Gambling has to have the element of chance,” explains attorney Lloyd D. Levenson. “The only variable that doesn’t have to do with skill is how a teacher might evaluate. But for the most part, you’re in control of your own destiny.”
Students have a mixed reaction to the site. Some find it a useful motivational tool, but others feel their grades are too far out of their own control to risk putting money down on their own performance.