Balancing scale with stacks of dollars on the left and a graduate cap on the right.
Betting on grades at Ultrinsic is not online gambling, according to CEO Steven Wolf. (Photo Credit: ThinkStock)

New York-based company Ultrinsic’s website now provides college students with a platform where they can participate in what amounts to betting on their own grades. Betting on straight A’s pays top dollar, while betting that they won’t fail – what Ultrinsic calls “grade insurance” – is a popular but less lucrative endeavor.

Ultrinsic CEO insists service is not online gambling

Online gambling is illegal in the United States, so Ultrinsic CEO Steven Wolf makes a point of informing anyone who will listen that his company is not an online gambling site. According to the Associated Press, Wolf makes the distinction between “betting on grades” at Ultrinsic and using a standard online gambling portal: Ultrinsic involves skill, rather than luck. What one person would call gambling, Wolf would call students investing in the future – their own future.
“The students have 100 percent control over it, over how they do. Other people’s stuff you bet on — your own stuff you invest in,” Wolf says. “Everything’s true about it; I’m just trying to say that the underlying concept is a little bit more than just making a bet — it’s actually an incentive.”

The Ultrinsic way

A college student 18 or older who is interested in Ultrinsic can register. Based upon past academic history, Ultrinsic calculates the odds of for the projected level of academic achievement for the current semester. Odds are also influenced by data Ultrinsic has obtained about the courses a customer is taking. The student can wager up to $25 to start, but the cap increases with repeated use of the website. Currently, 36 colleges participate in the Ultrinsic network.

Is Ultrinsic online gambling?

I. Nelson Rose of California’s Whittier Law School says that while standard online gambling involves chance, a fee/wager and some form of prize, what Ultrinsic does is less clear-cut. Grades aren’t always 100 percent within control of the student, as instructor bias is not uncommon. Yet for the most part, grades are within a student’s control. Hence, the skill element applies.
Wolf doesn’t discount the variables. However, student effort is clearly the trump card. “The biggest variable is how much effort the student wants to put in,” he told the Associated Press. “In general, if anybody would study 10 hours a day consistently for one class, they would get whatever grade they wanted to get.”


Associated Press


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