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Explaining the Favorite-Longshot Bias: Is it Risk-Love or Misperceptions?

  • Snowberg, Erik

    ()

    (California Institute of Technology)

  • Wolfers, Justin

    ()

    (University of Michigan)

The favorite-longshot bias describes the longstanding empirical regularity that betting odds provide biased estimates of the probability of a horse winning – longshots are overbet, while favorites are underbet. Neoclassical explanations of this phenomenon focus on rational gamblers who overbet longshots due to risk-love. The competing behavioral explanations emphasize the role of misperceptions of probabilities. We provide novel empirical tests that can discriminate between these competing theories by assessing whether the models that explain gamblers' choices in one part of their choice set (betting to win) can also rationalize decisions over a wider choice set, including compound bets in the exacta, quinella or trifecta pools. Using a new, large-scale dataset ideally suited to implement these tests we find evidence in favor of the view that misperceptions of probability drive the favorite-longshot bias, as suggested by Prospect Theory.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4884.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Political Economy, 2010, 118 (4), 723-746
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4884
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  8. Marco Ottaviani & Peter Norman Sorensen, 2010. "Noise, Information, and the Favorite-Longshot Bias in Parimutuel Predictions," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 58-85, February.
  9. Conlisk, John, 1993. " The Utility of Gambling," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 255-75, June.
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  17. Busche, Kelly & Hall, Christopher D, 1988. "An Exception to the Risk Preference Anomaly," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61(3), pages 337-46, July.
  18. Quandt, Richard E, 1986. "Betting and Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(1), pages 201-07, February.
  19. Cleveland, William S. & Devlin, Susan J. & Grosse, Eric, 1988. "Regression by local fitting : Methods, properties, and computational algorithms," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 87-114, January.
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