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    Betting on Bennifer

    by Joal Ryan
    Dec 13, 2003, 7:40 AM PT

    "Is there anyplace online," a gossip newsgroup Netizen wanted to know, "where you can bet on how long you think [Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter's] marriage will last?"

    Good question. And one that at least one Website asked itself this week.

    "We definitely considered it," says Kevin Mortesen, spokesman for the offshore gaming site known as

    Upon further review, the site passed on posting odds for Trista and Ryan's marital demise--too negative, it decided. Besides, had other hot-button topics on the burners.

    Like, which newsie will land the first interview with accused-killer Scott Peterson? Or who'll bag the first joint interview with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez?

    Peterson's been interviewed on network TV before, of course. (Diane Sawyer did the honors for ABC back in January.) Affleck and Lopez cooked for Access Hollywood's Pat O'Brien in July., which demands a moderate degree of show-biz literacy of its users, assumes you know it means Peterson's "first" post-trial interview. It assumes you know it means Bennifer's "first" post-Gigli, post-postponed-wedding interview.

    It assumes you know, and care, what a "get" is.

    As such, in Panama, by the way--is not your usual gaming site. Maybe that's because, as Mortesen says, "they really want to be an entertainment company.

    To that end, the site, looking to spur debate, if not traffic, began taking money last August on media "props," or propositions, which ask the question, "Who will be the first to interview So-and-So Famous Person?"

    The first headline makers to get their own lines were Iraqi war icon Jessica Lynch, hoops star and accused rapist Kobe Bryant (and Kobe Bryant's accuser), and, for international good measure, exiled Liberian president Charles Taylor.

    All but the Lynch line are still open. The Lynch sweepstakes ended in November when Sawyer got the "get" with the Army private. ('s original line had Sawyer a close second behind odds-on-favorite Katie Couric. As it turned out, Couric had the second TV interview with the soldier.)

    Recent weeks have seen the site add to the mix: Peterson (Barbara Walters is the favorite); Bennifer (O'Brien's the safe money; Howard Stern's the longest of shots); and, Michael Jackson (Oprah Winfrey and, in a twist, Jackson himself are the odds-on-picks to interview the singer regarding the latest child-molestation allegations).

    The site's even added a line for Bennifer's fun-couple rivals: Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Walters and Sawyers are considered to be in a dead heat to book that twosome.

    I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier Law School professor, and expert in gambling law, says media props can be accurate predictors of who actually ends up scoring the big interviews. And that's because, he says, it's possible that media types may drive the favorites by placing bets themselves.

    Journalists trying to make fast bucks off insider information? "Realistically, that's a possibility," Rose says. "Probably the major factor is [journalists] don't make enough money."

    The potential for odds manipulation is one reason Nevada outlawed proposition wagering, Rose says. A site such as and U.K.-based gaming houses are among the few places where a player can take a real, not just theoretical, gamble on pop culture.

    Mortesen says, for one, isn't worried about network-news staffers trading on behind-the-scenes knowledge of who's in talks with whom. "I think the field of journalism has a little more integrity than that," he says.

    "We hope."

    Admittedly, isn't betting its business on people putting down money on Ed Bradley to land Scott Peterson. "Some wagering" came in on the Jessica Lynch line, for instance, Mortesen says, but "certainly it will never rival the NFL or NBA [action]."

    Don't tell that to Bennifer.