With jurors deliberating behind closed doors, the odds of Michael Jackson being convicted of child molestation are almost even, according to a popular Internet betting site.
Internet speculators, however, see it as more likely than not that the pop star will be convicted of the separate charge of administering alcohol to a minor.
On the Dublin-based Tradesports.com Web site, the odds of a conviction on the alcohol charge were 70 percent Wednesday. That means traders who buy a contract for $70 stand to win $100 if Jackson is convicted or lose everything if he is acquitted.
Earlier in the trial, the contract for the alcohol charge had fallen as low as 20, but shot up last week after jurors were told they could convict Jackson for a lesser, misdemeanor charge of giving alcohol to a minor.
Jurors can decide on that charge if they find Jackson not guilty of the original felony charge of administering alcohol for the purposes of sexually abusing a minor.
“What traders were doing was looking at the market and many said, ’I don’t know if he’s guilty or innocent, all I know is that the probability of being convicted for administering an intoxicating agent is much more likely, it should be traded much higher,”’ said Mike Knesevitch, spokesman for Tradesports.
On Wednesday, the chance of a conviction for at least one of the core molestation counts was 46 percent. Earlier, the market had been pricing in a lower chance of a conviction, near 30 percent.
Jackson. 46, is accused of molesting a then-13-year-old cancer survivor at his Neverland Valley Ranch in 2003 and plying him with alcohol in order to abuse him. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit child abduction, extortion and false imprisonment.
Jackson, who has pleaded innocent, faces nearly two decades in prison if convicted on all charges.
As the days go by without a verdict, both Jackson contracts could begin selling off, Knesevitch said, because of the increasing possibility of a hung jury.
Trading on the Web site reached all-time highs during closing arguments and jury instructions in the case, with more than 16,000 contracts changing hands.