Wanna bet that a hurricane will hit U.S.? Now you can Print E-mail
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MIAMI -- It's a slow time of year for avid gamblers. The basketball and hockey playoffs are over. Football, even the preseason variety, is weeks away.
But gambling on whether Mother Nature will deliver another frenzied hurricane season has all the tantalizing unpredictability that many online betters can't resist.

Along with bets on what day Britney Spears will give birth or whether the space shuttle Discovery will launch on time, experts say hurricanes are the newest betting trend in pop culture. Experts say the business is booming, with a few thousand people having placed their hurricane wagers with online casinos, which are based in foreign countries.

Traditional U.S. casinos do not offer hurricane bets, and the U.S. Justice Department argues that online gambling is illegal, but there is disagreement on that.

"Betting on baseball gets boring. You're looking for a little action every now and then," said Ken Moore, who plunked down $75 in hurricane bets. "Betting on the hurricanes, I couldn't resist it."

Moore, a graphic designer from Quincy, Mass., will make a profit of about $72.50 if exactly two Category 3 or higher hurricanes pummel the U.S. this season. He will make $5 if at least one hits. If none hit or three or more hit, he loses. Category 3 storms have winds of at least 111 mph.

But some victims of Hurricane Katrina and the seven other storms that walloped the U.S. over the past two seasons think the betting is somewhat tacky if not downright cruel.

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