Is it OK to bet on who the next pope will be?

From Foreign Policy Tue Feb 12 2013, 18:39:03

It's one of the unenumerated rules of the Internet that if you can think of it, you can bet on it online. Apparently, people have been betting on Pope Benedict XVI's successor for months via the gambling clearinghouse sites Paddy Power and William Hill Plc (sure, the pope's resignation may have shocked the world, but the good people at Paddy Power were kicking around the idea as early as August). While there's no odds-on favorite in the field, the oddsmakers are partial toward the African Cardinals Peter Turkson of Ghana and Francis Arinze of Nigeria (the latter a contender at the last papal conclave in 2005), as well as Marc Ouellet of Canada and Angelo Scola of Italy. Betters looking for a dark horse might consider Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (10 to 1) or Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga (12 to 1). Or, if you're interested in throwing money away, you can bet on noted atheist Richard Dawkins, whose odds Paddy Power has cheekily pinned at 666 to 1.

There's no Nate Silver for papal elections, and no way to unskew the polls when there is none -- aside from a closed session of cardinals that doesn't end until the pope has been chosen. (In a Silver-esque bid to do the "cardinal math," NPR's Sylvia Poggioli crunched the numbers today on conclave attendees and concluded, contrary to what the oddsmakers are predicting, that the next pope will be European.) The logic ...

The interesting wrinkle here is that usually the pope has to die for a successor to be selected -- and betting on someone dying seems pretty unethical, not to mention just plain tacky. But Benedict is stepping down. Does that make it okay ...

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