Just ask the punters

Government claims that Australia would not fall into the world recession this year were proved wrong this week....all to the profit of economy-savvy gamblers who were not taken in by political opinions.

And government criticism of the online gambling group Centrebet, which ran bets on the issue, proved to be invalid as the economy contracted in two consecutive quarters, providing some big payouts to sharp gamblers who bet that this would be the case, reports the publication Monsters and Critics.

Centrebet financial analyst Neil Evans said the smart money had always been on the economy contracting, and that astute gamblers had always discounted political claims that billion-dollar stimulus packages would keep the economy growing.

"The up-side is that plenty of punters have backed the recession ... as well as being a little more emotionally prepared for what might be coming," Evans said.

This week Prime Minister Kevin Rudd conceded he was wrong and that the economy would indeed go backwards in 2009. Earlier, the government had been critical of Centrebet, claiming that making a market in the direction of gross domestic product was 'utterly irresponsible' because it preyed on the human misery of job losses, mortgage foreclosures and business bankruptcies.

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