Friday, August 20, 2004 Print This | Email This     

Gamblers: Odds are Scott Peterson is guilty of murder

By Emanuella Grinberg, Court TV

(Court TV) — Legal experts and trial watchers continue to speculate on the outcome of the Scott Peterson murder case. But what about those willing to lay down money on their opinions? What do gamblers see in store for the fertilizer salesman?

Judging by Vegas odds, Peterson will be found guilty.

"For the past few months, the lines have favored a guilty verdict for Scott Peterson," said a gambling agent at

The British online gaming site, which maintains an office in Costa Rica, gets its odds from bookies in Las Vegas.

"Like in sports, the odds change now and then based on the condition of the team and other factors," the agent, who identified himself only as J.P., said. "But on Peterson they've been pretty consistent."

The double-murder trial now in its 12th week in Redwood City, Calif., has enticed gamblers from all over the world to stake a bet on the jury's findings.

Many of them also wager on Peterson's sentence if convicted: Even though he is eligible for the death penalty, current odds have it he will get life in prison.

Those outside legal gambling jurisdictions such as Nevada are taking part in the action through legal offshore gaming Web sites. Most employ a money-line wagering system, in which payouts for trial outcomes are expressed in positive and negative "lines."

For example, at another British Web site,, the line currently is set at -200 that Peterson will be found guilty. This means if you bet $200 in favor of a guilty verdict and you are right, you will win $100 plus your stake. The payout is 3 to 2.

On the other hand, the line is set at +150 for a not guilty verdict, which means if you bet $100 for an acquittal, you'll win $150 plus your stake if Peterson walks free. Here, the payout is 5 to 2.

Gamblers can also bet on a mistrial, which stands at +200 (a payout of 3 to 1), as well as "other outcome," which is now +1,000 (a payout of 11 to 1).

Though the general pattern of betting has been consistent, lines change frequently based on developments in the case. Even a trial delay such as the one this week can affect the odds.

"We're waiting to see what happens," said a manager for who identified himself only as Michael. "We adjust the lines according to the action, crowd opinion, judge rulings, stuff like that."

Aliens, O.J.

This kind of betting is nothing new to the world of gambling.

On many major online gaming sites, users can place a variety of "novelty bets" — for example, on the outcome of the presidential election or whether Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey will divorce before the New Year.

Michael Jackson's child molestation trial is also drawing bettors who put money on whether he will walk (a line of +120) or be found guilty of at least one count (-160), as well as if aliens from the Planet Zorg will reclaim him as their true leader (+15000), according to one gaming site.

There is also the possibility (though extremely slim, according to the 151-to-1 payout) that Jackson and R. Kelly will flee the country and start a brothel in the Phillipines.

And long before Scott Peterson made headlines, bettors lined up to wager on the O.J. Simpson trial.

Steve Schillinger, a former equities trader, arranged numerous bets on the Simpson trial while working on the floor of the Pacific Stock Exchange. Schillinger did so well as a bookie that he decided to start his online gambling site, World Sports Exchange in Antigua Barbuda, where online gambling is legal.

"The O.J. Simpson case was so huge at the time that I'm sure that if we'd had our online business during the trial, we would have been dealing with millions," Schillinger told

"I was changing the odds every day based on new evidence that came out, but I favored the guilty verdict because I thought it was so obvious Simpson did it," Schillinger said. "Who would have thought that 12 intelligent people would have all found him not guilty?"

Schillinger has not started taking bets on the Peterson trial, and is considering whether he will at all.

"We get a lot of negative press for stuff like that," Schillinger said. "Some people say it's sick to put money down when somebody's life is on the line. It isn't in good taste."

Of course, if enough gamblers start lining up to bet on Peterson, Schillinger said he wouldn't necessarily pass up the business.

"If the case becomes as big as O.J.," he said. "I would consider it."

Full coverage of Scott Peterson case