Bet on Your College Grades!

A new branch of online betting seems to be evolving as a New York-based company called Ultrinsic has recently introduced their unique method to inspire students to get good grades at university: bet on the mark you will get in a particular class or your GPA.

Another way of inspiring the acquisition of better marks

On how it all began, founder Jeremy Gelbart writes on the website: “While hanging out together one Sunday afternoon, I mentioned to my friend Steven Wolf that I had an exam the following day and that if I were to study I was sure to get an A. (At the time, I was a student at University of Pennsylvania.) But I was enjoying my Sunday afternoon, and I told Steven that I had no intention of studying. That's when, in order to provide me with motivation, we made the following agreement: If I got an A on the exam, he would give me $100, and if I didn't get an A, I would give him $20. Steven and I quickly realized that lots of other students might like this kind of motivation.  To that end, we began developing what is now Ultrinsic Motivator Inc.”

The reception of the initiative is ambiguous at best: some regard it a true ‘incentive’ to get better marks, while others argue it is as dangerous as it is illegal. In this respect, Ultrinsic wandered to a ‘grey area’, as put it: online gambling is yet illegal in the US, but the bets are on your own performance, which technically eliminates it as gambling. In accordance with Ultrinsic CEO Steven Wolf, Lloyd D. Levenson from Cooper-Levenson told that it is certainly not a matter of luck: "Gambling has to have the element of chance. 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."

In its current beta form, Ultrinsic supports 36 universities in the US. The cap on bets is $25 for newcomers but that grows with use. Although it is possible to wager on failing the class, which the company calls ‘grade insurance’, the system will not reward a straight-As student for suddenly acquiring lower grades. The system is already sophisticated but developers promise even more: "We have algorithms that take into account a number of different statistics like academic history, how well they do in certain subjects, as well as others as we gather more and more information. So, the more data that's collected, the more accurate these odds will become."

Experiencing the heated debate on poker being gambling or not, as well as having a large overlap between the target audiences of the two enterprises, I'm quite sure it's not the last time we have heard of Ultrinsic.